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Texas Fights Anti-Discrimination Policy For Adoption

Texas’ attorney general sued the government to preserve federal funding for religious agencies that won’t work with LBGTQ+ families
Photo: Yuriy Golub | Shutterstock

On Monday, Dec. 12, Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a lawsuit in Galveston's federal court against the government for the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Discrimination rule (SOGI). The AG intends to preserve Texas’s ability to provide federal funding to religious groups refusing to place children with same-sex couples.

Under the current legislation, the SOGI rule prohibits any organization receiving federal funding for adoption and foster programs from discriminating against adopting couples on the basis of age, sex, nationality, disability, race, religion, gender identity and sexual orientation. 

Although, Texas passed religious protections for child welfare organizations in 2017, allowing them to refuse to work with LGBTQ+ couples or take in LGBTQ+ foster children without legal retaliation. But the law still requires states to ensure there are alternative providers that will work with LGBTQ+ children or families who were rejected from these religious welfare agencies.

What is essentially being contended in this and previous attempts to overrule anti-discrimination laws, is Texas’ foster care budget. According to the Texas Tribune, each year the state spends nearly $550 million on residential care plus another $58 million on casework services for children in foster care as stated in Paxton’s complaint. Almost a quarter of those $550 million comes from federal funding which Texas could lose if these religious organizations don’t comply with the current legislation.

In this lawsuit, Paxton is trying to have the rule discarded preemptively, LGBTQ+ child welfare service providers and legal advocacy groups alike are pushing in the opposite direction. 

In June 2022, a federal district judge in Washington, D.C. reinstated nondiscrimination protections in grant programs funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that had been eliminated by the Trump administration. Another lawsuit in New York’s Southern District, currently on appeal, a judge ruled that the LGBTQ service provider didn’t have a standing to sue

In both cases, the service providers were represented by Democracy Forward, a legal advocacy group whose deputy legal director said that Trump-era rollback on the rule represented an attempt to get the government to subsidize discrimination.

James Frank, Representative for District 69 in Wichita Falls and co-author of House Bill 3859, claimed in a committee meeting before the bill was passed in 2017, that the purpose of the bill was not to get lost in the political discussion, but to provide as many quality homes as possible for children. Yet the bill allows for religious providers to refuse to take in LGBTQ+ children as well as provide religious education to the kids they do accept. LGBTQ+ advocates argued at the time this could expose children to widely controversial and denounced “conversion therapy” practices.

The National Association of Social Workers Texas government relations director, Bryan Mares believes this could create a deficit in foster homes supply for LGBTQ+ children. “It makes it much more difficult to find families who might already identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community to bring children that are in the system into their home,” said Mares (via Texas Tribune). “It really just impedes our ability to prioritize LGBTQ+ youth placements into homes where they are being supported in a way that they need.”

In case you missed it, here's Local Profile's report on Texas Attorney General calling for prosecution against drag shows allowing children.