Alliance Defending Freedom is working to keep LGBTQ people from adopting children

Alliance Defending Freedom is working to keep LGBTQ people from adopting children

››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN & REBECCA DAMANTE

Lawyers and allied attorneys from influential anti-LGBTQ hate group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) have been working to pass and defend legislation in at least five states that allows child welfare agencies to discriminate against LGBTQ people, among others, in adoption and foster care. In 2017, three states passed anti-LGBTQ adoption laws, and a sweeping anti-LGBTQ religious exemptions law in Mississippi also included provisions about adoption and foster care. Georgia’s state Senate passed a similar bill in February, to be considered by its House, and at least three other states are considering similar bills this year.


Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

States are considering and passing bills that allow adoption and foster care agencies to deny services to LGBTQ people

Georgia is considering a bill that would allow adoption and foster care agencies to deny services to LGBTQ people after three states passed similar bills in 2017. Georgia’s state Senate passed a bill “that could enable child welfare organizations to stop same-sex parents from adopting on grounds of religious beliefs,” according to Newsweek. The bill, if passed, could allow adoption and foster care agencies “to refuse referrals that are deemed to violate ‘sincerely held religious beliefs.’” In 2017, Texas, South Dakota, and Alabama passed similar bills, and Mississippi’s sweeping anti-LGBTQ religious exemptions bill -- which went into effect in October -- also included provisions allowing child welfare agencies to discriminate against LGBTQ people based on so-called “religious freedom.” According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), at least three other states besides Georgia are considering similar bills this year: Colorado, Kansas, and Oklahoma. In 2015, Michigan passed a trio of anti-LGBTQ adoption laws that are being challenged in court. [Newsweek, 2/26/18; NBC News, 1/12/18, 9/20/17; NewNowNext, 10/2/17; American Civil Liberties Union, accessed 2/27/18; Rewire, 12/6/16]

ADF and its allies are involved in pushing for anti-LGBTQ adoption and foster care bills in at least 5 states

ADF-allied attorney Dave Baker testified in favor of Georgia’s anti-LGBTQ adoption bill at a state Senate judiciary subcommittee hearing. According to The Atlanta-Journal Constitution, ADF-allied attorney and Faith & Freedom Coalition of Georgia Executive Director Dave Baker testified before a Georgia Senate subcommittee in February in favor of Georgia’s anti-LGBTQ adoption bill. According to the report, Baker said, “It’s not asking too much ... to allow a relative handful of faith-based agencies to adhere to their sincerely held religious beliefs in placing children just with traditional families.” Baker has also testified at a City Schools of Decatur meeting against its policy allowing transgender students to use the restroom facilities that align with their gender identity, a major policy priority of ADF and its allies. [The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 2/8/18; Faith & Freedom Coalition of Georgia, accessed 2/27/18; Media Matters, 11/27/17]

ADF’s Matt Sharp crafted “the precise language” of South Dakota’s anti-LGBTQ adoption law. Family Heritage Alliance (FHA) Action, which is associated with ADF, thanked ADF’s Matt Sharp in March 2017 for co-writing “the precise language of SB149,” South Dakota’s anti-LGBTQ adoption bill. The Associated Press reported that the law has been viewed by human rights advocates as “cementing in state law the right to discriminate against same-sex couples, single parents and even households that observe a different religion” in adoption and foster care. Sharp is senior counsel at ADF, where he has worked since 2010, and according to ThinkProgress, Sharp has testified alongside FHA for other anti-LGBTQ bills in South Dakota. [Family Heritage Alliance Action, 3/10/17; The Associated Press, 3/10/17; Alliance Defending Freedom, accessed 3/1/18; ThinkProgress, 2/4/16]

ADF-allied attorney Cecilia Wood testified in favor of Texas’s anti-LGBTQ adoption law at a House State Affairs Committee meeting. According to a bill digest from Texas’ House of Representatives, Cecilia Wood -- whose FindLaw profile identifies her as an ADF-allied attorney -- testified before a Texas House committee in May 2017 in favor of Texas’ anti-LGBTQ adoption law. Rewire’s legislative tracker wrote that the law allows “child welfare providers the right to discriminate in, or refuse, the services they offer (such as child placement, counseling, and abuse assistance) to LGBTQ families and children.” The Human Rights Campaign also reported that the law “forbid[s] the state from canceling a state contract with an agency that subjected children in their care to dangerous practices such as so-called ‘conversion therapy.’” [Texas House Research Organization, 5/6/17; FindLaw 4/27/17; Rewire, 10/31/17; Human Rights Campaign, 6/15/17]

Five ADF attorneys and allied attorney Timothy Denney filed an amicus brief in Michigan to defend the state’s anti-LGBTQ adoption law, and Denney is co-counsel in the case. On January 30, five ADF lawyers -- Kristen Waggoner, David Cortman, Jeremy Tedesco, Jonathan Scruggs, and Katherine Anderson -- filed an amicus brief in support of Michigan’s anti-LGBTQ adoption law, passed in 2015, after the ACLU filed a lawsuit against it. ADF-allied attorney Timothy Denney, who is serving as “co-counsel for the Michigan legislators opposing the lawsuit,” also signed the amicus brief. In addition, ADF-allied attorney Mark Rienzi, who is the president of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, is representing St. Vincent Catholic Charities, a defendant in the case. [Alliance Defending Freedom, 1/31/18, 1/30/18, 6/26/14; Becket Fund, accessed 3/1/18; ACLU, 1/9/18]

In Mississippi, ADF helped write, justify, and defend the “most sweeping and devastating state law to be enacted against LGBTQ people in the country,” which allows child welfare organizations to discriminate against LGBTQ people. According to The Washington Post, ADF “played a key role in helping Mississippi’s legislature and governor write, promote and legally justify HB 1523,” the state’s anti-LGBTQ religious exemptions law that allows businesses, individuals, and others to discriminate against LGBTQ people under the guise of “religious freedom.” The law includes a provision that allows foster care and adoption agencies to “decline to provide any adoption or foster care service” to LGBTQ people, among others. The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) called it “by far the most sweeping and devastating state law to be enacted against LGBTQ people in the country.” The Post reported that ADF lawyer Austin Nimocks emailed a lawyer in the office of Mississippi Republican Gov. Phil Bryant in June 2015 and attached what he called a “model executive order that would prevent state governments from discriminating against their citizens because of their views or actions concerning marriage.” Mississippi’s bill “adopted many of the identical passages,” according to a brief filed by an attorney leading one of the challenges against it. In March 2016, ADF attorney Kellie Fiedorek sent Bryant two drafts of a signing statement, which is “the final step in the legislative process,” saying, “We looked through a number of Gov. Bryant’s signing statements and tried to use his voice.” Fiedorek continued, “Please feel free to pull from either one that is most helpful to you and your boss. ... We’re here to serve.” ADF has also provided legal support to Bryant and other Mississippi officials. The group represented Bryant and John Davis, executive director of the Mississippi Department of Human Services, after a federal judge blocked the entire bill from taking effect on June 30, 2016. When the case reached the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, ADF attorneys joined Bryant in issuing a brief in favor of the law and were a part of his legal team. According to Rewire, the main provisions of Colorado’s proposed anti-LGBTQ religious exemptions bill, which would also codify discrimination against LGBTQ people attempting to adopt or foster a child, are identical to those of Mississippi’s. [The Washington Post, 7/21/16; NewNowNext, 10/2/17; Human Rights Campaign, 10/3/17; Media Matters, 10/11/17; Rewire, 2/12/18]

ADF is the leading hate group pushing an anti-LGBTQ agenda across the country

ADF is the largest and most powerful anti-LGBTQ hate group in the country and is working to combat LGBTQ equality at almost every level. ADF is an influential anti-LGBTQ hate group that is fighting LGBTQ equality on many fronts, including leading the fight against transgender student equality, codifying discrimination against the community via religious exemptions, and exporting its anti-LGBTQ agenda abroad. ADF is well-known for representing plaintiff Jack Phillips, a Christian baker, in the Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission Supreme Court case, in which a gay couple sued Phillips after he refused to bake a cake for their wedding. The case could have major implications in terms of whether businesses serving the public have the right to discriminate against LGBTQ people using religious exemptions. ADF and its allied attorneys have also relentlessly worked to prevent transgender students from using the restrooms that align with their gender identity, distributing its suggested anti-LGBTQ bathroom policy to schools across the country and filing lawsuits and briefs on behalf of schools with discriminatory policies and against schools that have implemented trans-inclusive policies. Legislation proposed in at least eight states in 2017 resembled ADF’s policy or were written by ADF. In addition, ADF has filed lawsuits and worked with government officials like U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions for other discriminatory religious exemptions, including advising Sessions on his October Justice Department guidance, writing and defending Mississippi’s sweeping anti-LGBTQ law, and representing a client in Michigan who fired an employee for coming out as transgender. The organization has supported legislative efforts to prevent transgender service members from receiving medically necessary health care and also works with more than a dozen anti-LGBTQ groups and hate groups. [Media Matters, 11/27/17, 12/4/17]

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