Anti-LGBT Adoption Laws

By Molly Zilli, Esq. on May 23, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The conflict between equal rights advocates and freedom of religion proponents has been going on for a long time and doesn't show signs of letting up any time soon. One current battleground is the issue of same-sex adoption. While advocates see it as a 14th Amendment equal protection issue, proponents of anti-LGBT adoption laws argue for religious exemptions.

But where does the law currently stand?

Obergefell and Adoption

It used to be the case that states could implement laws which banned LGBT adoption altogether. And they did. But after Obergefell v. Hodges-- the Supreme Court case that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide -- courts ruled that these statewide bans were unconstitutional. However, certain agencies who are licensed by the state and receive state or federal funds argue that they should not be forced to place children with same-sex or transgender parents because of their religious and moral convictions.

Anti-LGBT Adoption Laws

There are currently eight, and soon-to-be nine, states with laws allowing agencies to refuse LGBT adoption for religious reasons. In states like Oklahoma, the law allows child welfare agencies with religious affiliations to deny placement of a child based on their "written religious or moral convictions or policies." These convictions usually include a belief that children should ideally be placed with both a mother and a father.

Groups like the ACLU and Lambda Legal are challenging these laws in court. They argue that because the adoption agencies receive state (or federal) funds, the rule prohibiting state discrimination should apply to those agencies as well. Lambda Legal's lawsuit actually involves the federal government, as they are representing a same-sex couple who says Catholic Charities, an organization which receives federal funds, denied their attempt to foster a refugee child.

Adoption is a deeply personal and significant undertaking. If you need help, contact an attorney who can guide you along the process.

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