Nonprofit civil rights organization Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit on behalf of Fatma Marouf and Bryn Esplin, a lesbian couple in Fort Worth, Texas, yesterday (February 20). When the married couple went to an affiliate of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) to begin the process of becoming foster parents for an unaccompanied refugee minor, they were denied because their relationship doesn’t "mirror the Holy Family," according to Lambda Legal.
Lambda Legal is suing USCCB and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which funds the program. The couple shared the following in a statement:
“Being denied the opportunity to foster a child because we don’t “mirror the Holy Family’—clearly code for being a same-sex couple—was hurtful and insulting to us. More than that, though, insisting on such a narrow, religious view of what a family must look like deprives these children of a nurturing, supportive home," said Esplin.
“Refugee children have been through enough trauma to last a lifetime," Marouf said. "They need love, stability and support, which Bryn and I have in abundance. But in discriminating against us, the agency put their religious views of LGBT people above what is best for the kids in their care.”
Lambda Legal takes issue with HHS’ decision to fund USCCB, through the Office of Refugee Resettlement, to handle foster care placements, because of the likelihood of discrimination against LGBTQ people.
HHS funded USCCB to perform federal child welfare services through its affiliates even though USCCB made clear that it would use the funds to deny such services to members of the public based on USCCB’s religious beliefs.
The lawsuit alleges that "HHS and USCCB are violating the Establishment, Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the U.S Constitution by allowing USCCB to impose a religious test governing the provision of federal child welfare services."
The Office of Refugee Resettlement has also been under fire recently for trying to deny minors in its custody access to legal abortion services.