- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Vice President Mike Pence hailed the Trump administration’s receptivity to faith-based adoption agencies Tuesday at a ceremony for adoptive families and groups.

But the vice president did not mention ongoing court battles in which Christian adoption agencies are accused of violating anti-discrimination rules for their refusal to endorse LGBTQ couples.

Calling the Trump administration “the most pro-adoption administration in American history,” Mr. Pence noted that the overall number of children entering the foster care system declined in 2018 for the first time in years.

“We’re keeping families together,” he said at an event celebrating National Adoption Month at the Department of Health and Human Services.

He also observed that roughly 20,000 children each year age-out of the foster care system without adoptive parents. The Trump administration, he said, has sough to use a wide range of adoptive agencies — including faith-based ones — to certify parents.

Health and Human Services Alex M. Azar II this month proposed a rule to spell out protections for faith-based adoption groups that refuse to grant adoptions to LGBTQ couples, undoing an Obama-era rule.

Several states and cities, such as Michigan and Philadelphia, have severed ties with Catholic Social Services and other Christian adoption agencies over their religion-based refusal to work with same-sex couples.

Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit halted New York officials from enforcing an anti-discrimination rule on New Hope Family Services, an adoption agency that says it prioritizes placing children in homes with a married father and mother. New Hope is not able to take on new parents while litigation proceeds.

“I’ll make you one promise: Child welfare providers will never be forced to choose between their faith and serving those in need, not on our watch,” Mr. Pence said Tuesday without directly referring to any specific case.

However, he faulted the Obama administration for issuing a rule in its waning days that required adoption or foster agencies not to exclude prospective parents or else lose access to nearly $7 billion in federal child-welfare funds. Mr. Pence said the ruled erred by “penalizing [agencies] for deeply held religious beliefs.”

Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign, rebuked the vice president’s remarks.

“Trump and Pence relentlessly marginalize LGBTQ people and attempt to erase our existence,” Mr. David said in a written statement. “Their disturbing worldview extends into the adoption and foster care systems, where they support giving federally-funded foster and adoption agencies a license to discriminate against LGBTQ children and prospective parents, religious minorities and other vulnerable groups.”

Five states and the District of Columbia prohibit adoption agencies from discriminating against parents because of sexual orientation and gender identity, according to the Movement Advancement Project. Laws protecting faith-based adoption agencies have been enacted in 10 states.

In Michigan, a federal judge in September ruled in favor of St. Vincent Catholic Charities and adoptive parents who had sued to prevent the state from blocking their access to the state’s adoption program.

• Christopher Vondracek can be reached at cvondracek@washingtontimes.com.

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