Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) introduced legislation this week that would ban discrimination against LGBTQ people who want to adopt and against LGBTQ children who want to be adopted.
The Every Child Deserves a Family Act would prohibit any federally funded adoption or foster placement agency from discriminating based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status of the potential parent or the child involved. Gillibrand has introduced the bill in the Senate twice before.
The legal status of adoption rights for same-sex couples is inconsistent from state to state, and most states don’t specifically address foster care. Only seven states, including Gillibrand’s home state of New York, explicitly prohibit anti-LGBTQ discrimination in adoption, and only five states prohibit discrimination in foster care.
An estimated two million LGBTQ people are interested in adopting, while more than 400,000 children are in foster care and about 100,000 are available to be adopted because they can’t return to their original families.
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“We need to support the loving, caring, and responsible adults who want to welcome children in need of families into their homes,” Gillibrand said in a statement. “This bill removes outdated and discriminatory barriers that have kept thousands of children within the welfare system instead of connecting them with devoted parents.”
Not only does discrimination against LGBTQ parents reduce the number of homes for children, advocates say—it reduces the number of likely safe, accepting homes for LGBTQ children, who are disproportionately mistreated in the foster system.
“It’s a sad reality that most of the stories we hear about how LGBTQ youth are treated in foster care are pretty grim,” Celeste Bodner, executive director of FosterClub, said in a statement.
An estimated 40 percent of homeless youth are LGBTQ, and about 60 percent came out of the foster system. Many are rejected by their families for their identity or orientation, and some drop out of school due to bullying and harassment.
“Safe and affirming families are key to LGBTQ youth succeeding and thriving,” Ellen Kahn, director of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Children, Youth and Families Program, said in a statement. “It’s time for the system to do better for these youth.”