Lawsuit: Massachusetts Rejected Catholic Foster Parent Applicants Over Beliefs About Marriage and Sexuality
Massachusetts requires foster families to “support and respect a child’s sexual orientation or gender identity.”
A Catholic couple was denied the opportunity to become foster parents because of their religious beliefs about marriage and sexuality, according to the complaint they filed in Massachusetts federal district court earlier this week.
A copy of the complaint appears at the bottom of this post.
They claim the state’s policy violates their religious and free speech rights under the Constitution.
At a time when the state was in desperate need of qualified foster homes, Mike and Kitty Burke applied to the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF) to offer their own, according to their complaint. The couple allege they were willing to accept the most difficult cases: multiple siblings, children with special needs or other disabilities—regardless of racial, cultural, or ethnic background. All were welcome.
They successfully completed the lengthy application and training process, their complaint alleges. But, in retrospect, there was a red flag: An instructor allegedly told them “parents who were not willing to affirm same-sex relationships and transgender identities” should not be foster parents.
DCF regulations require foster families to “support and respect a child’s sexual orientation or gender identity.”
That would explain the intense scrutiny of the couple’s views on gender identity during the interview process:
From the complaint, [par. 111, 112]:
During the home interviews, the Burkes were troubled that much of the questioning centered around their views on sexuality and their response if a child were, in the future, to struggle with gender dysphoria or to identify as gay or lesbian. They estimate that a third of the time in the interviews was spent on these questions.
In response to those questions, Mike and Kitty emphasized that they would love and accept their child, no matter his or her future sexual orientation or struggles with gender identity. When asked “how they’d feel if their child identified as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Queer, or any other sexuality. Kitty shared, ‘there’s nothing wrong with it, I’m going to love you the same, but I believe you would need to live a chaste life.’” … Mike agreed that “there’s nothing wrong with it.” … He said that “he’d want to have a conversation with a child about this” at an appropriate time and reiterated that “there would not be a change” in how the Burkes would treat or love the child.
Despite this openness and the couples’ many strengths, their application was denied, they allege, for one reason and one reason only: they “would not be affirming to a child who identified as LGBTQIA.”
The state policy amounts to “an absolute bar for Catholics who agree with the Church’s teaching on sex, marriage, and gender,” the complaint says.
The Burkes are represented by the Becket Fund.
“It takes the heroic effort of parents like Mike and Kitty to provide vulnerable children with loving homes through foster care,” said Lori Windham, vice president and senior counsel at Becket. “Massachusetts’ actions leave the Burkes, and families of other faiths, out in the cold. How can they explain this to children waiting for a home?”
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