Advocates for foster youth and LGBTQ rights on Wednesday applauded a strong signal from the Biden administration that it will withdraw a last-minute proposal from the Trump team that would allow taxpayer-funded grantees to deny essential services to foster youth and other groups on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, religion and other characteristics.
The cheering came after Biden’s Department of Health and Human Services agreed not to fight a six-month delay granted by a judge in response to the groups’ lawsuit seeking the stay. The new administration said it would use the time to review the Trump-era rule, which is widely expected to be dropped. The stay was granted two days before the rule would have kicked in.
Currey Cook, legal senior counsel for Lambda Legal, a prominent LGBTQ legal rights group, said the plaintiffs were “thrilled” with the Biden team’s timely action.
“If this Trump administration rule were ever to become law, our plaintiffs – youth and alumni in foster care and advocacy organizations dedicated to safety and equity for LGBTQ children and families, LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness, and LGBTQ seniors – would be harmed, along with other youth and families who would face potential denial of services and discrimination,” he said in a statement.
The statement spelled out a handful of examples of how the Trump rule could be used to allow taxpayer-funded discrimination against everyday Americans:
- An HHS-funded shelter could turn away a homeless teen teenager because she was transgender.
- A foster care agency operating with an HHS grant could refuse to place children with a married same-sex couple or parents of a religion of which the agency disapproves.
- A man might be denied a meal at a food bank because he is gay.
- A child welfare agency might require an LGBTQ youth to accept services that deny their sexual orientation or gender identity in order to access other critical aid.
Backers of the Trump rule say service providers should not have to compromise their religious beliefs when they serve the needy, underprivileged or those whose lifestyles they shun, even if they get federal money. Eleven states have passed laws that shield faith-based child welfare providers from any “adverse action” by state agencies for selecting and rejecting clients based on religious philosophy.
A court case pending in the U.S. Supreme Court in November could result in permanent permission for faith-based groups that wish to discriminate. The high court heard oral arguments in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia in early November.