The federal government ruled that South Carolina foster agencies are allowed to continue denying services to same-sex couples and non-Christian families, according to The Post and Courier.

Gov. Henry McMaster requested a waiver that allows faith-based foster agencies to refuse families on the basis of religious beliefs. The waiver was mainly intended to protect Miracle Hill Ministries, a Greenville-based agency that limits their services only to Christian families. Miracle Hill has previously turned away Jewish families and same-sex couples.

House committee chairs Robert Scott (D-VA) and Richard Neal (D-MA) urged HHS Secretary Alex Azar to deny the request, but the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services granted McMaster’s waiver request. The waiver is an exception to a rule put in place by the Obama administration barring foster agencies that receive public funding from discriminating.

According to Miracle Hill CEO, Reid Lehman, “God’s design for marriage is the legal joining of one man and one woman in a life-long covenant relationship.” The agency also requires all of its employees to follow Christian religious beliefs.

“This is yet another example of the Trump administration using religion to advance a regressive political agenda that harms others,” Americans United President Rachel Laser tells the Post and Courier. “And this time, the target is not only religious minorities but also our most vulnerable children—those in need of loving homes.”

Research shows that LGBTQ+ children are currently over-represented in the foster care system, and a recent study in Los Angeles conducted by the Williams Institute found that nearly 1 out of 5 LA-based foster youth are LGBTQ+. Family acceptance is one of the most significant factors in positive health outcomes for LGBTQ+ children and teenagers—which is why it’s critical that foster agencies and child placement services don’t have anti-LGBTQ+ policies in place.

 

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