July 03, 2024

Wyden, Merkley Co-Sponsor Legislation to Outlaw Discrimination against LGBTQ+ Couples Looking to Adopt, Protect LGBTQ+ Youth in Foster Care

Washington, D.C. U.S. Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley said today they have joined legislation that would ban discrimination against LGBTQ+ couples in Oregon and nationwide looking to adopt and protect LGBTQ+ children in the U.S. foster care system. 

The John Lewis Every Child Deserves a Family Act would prohibit federally funded child welfare agencies from discriminating against individuals and couples on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, or marital status. The legislation would also improve the safety and well-being of LGBTQ+ children involved with federally funded child welfare services by establishing a National Resource Center for LGBTQ+ youth and by banning harmful practices like conversion therapy.

“Every time a child welfare agency forces LGBTQ+ children into conversion therapy or turns down LGBTQ+ couples hoping to start a family, a foster care child loses the chance to have a brighter future,” Wyden said. “The children in our foster care system deserve to be in a loving family, and the people hoping to become parents should be able to start a loving family. This legislation will stop American taxpayer dollars from propping up discrimination against any child or potential parent on the basis of who they are and who they love.” 

“Discrimination has no place in providing children safe and loving homes,” said Senator Merkley. “Even today, thirteen states permit child welfare agencies to deny qualified foster and adoptive parents based on who they are. ?As LGBTQ+ individuals nationwide face an unprecedented level of attacks, we need the John Lewis Every Child Deserves a Family Act.” 

Although same-sex couples are more likely to pursue adoption, 13 states permit child welfare agencies to turn away qualified foster and adoptive parents on the basis of their social identity. For example, in 2018, Oklahoma passed a bill allowing religious-based adoption agencies to discriminate against same-sex couples, single people, and non-Christians. Several other states have already passed or are considering similar legislation. Meanwhile, LGBTQ+ children–who are overrepresented in the system and make up at least 30 percent of children in foster care–suffer greater rates of mistreatment and experience worse outcomes than their peers.

The legislation is sponsored by U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and cosponsored, along with Wyden and Merkley, by U.S Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), John Fetterman (D-Pa.), John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawai’i), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), Angus King (I-Maine), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawai’i), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Peter Welch (D-Vt.), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.).

The companion legislation is led by Representative Danny Davis (D-Ill.) in the House. 

A full list of endorsing organizations is here.

 The full text of the legislation is here