Family Equality is denouncing the Trump administration’s proposal to allow religious taxpayer-funded foster care and adoption agencies with anti-gay beliefs to refuse placing children in LGBTQ+ families. The group’s leaders say the plan is a “license to discriminate” and is urging its supporters to speak out against the policy.

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services announced Nov. 1 its plans to eliminate the Obama-era policy implemented in December 2016 that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity among federal grantees. Federal grantees—those that receive federal grants funded with taxpayer money—include adoption agencies.  Read the proposed rule and regulations by clicking here.

“It is outrageous that the Trump administration would mark the start of National Adoption Month by announcing a rule to further limit the pool of loving homes available to America’s 440,000 foster children,” said Julie Kruse, director of federal policy at Family Equality. Family Equality is a 40-year old nonprofit advocating for LGBTQ+ families at the state and federal level.

“The American public overwhelmingly opposes allowing taxpayer-funded adoption and foster care agencies to turn away qualified parents simply because they are in a same-sex relationship,” Kruse said.

Denise Brogan-Kator, chief policy officer at Family Equality, said the Trump administration proposal does not put the interest of children first.

“This action harms America’s foster children, particularly the 123,000 waiting for adoption. Less than half of these children will find their forever families within a year, yet the administration is acting to make even fewer families available,” Brogan-Kator said in a statement.

“Changing federal nondiscrimination rules to allow child-placing agencies to reduce the pool of qualified potential foster and adoptive parents runs counter to the cardinal rule of child welfare: that the best interests of children in care must come first,” Brogan-Kator added.

The HHS said in its announcement of the proposed new rule ensures protections of “religious freedom” and in its rule states many religious-based agencies argue the Obama-era rule violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

“The proposed rule represents the Trump Administration’s strong commitment to the rule of law―the Constitution, federal statutes, and Supreme Court decisions,” according to the HHS press release.

“These require that the federal government not infringe on religious freedom in its operation of HHS grant programs and address the impact of regulatory actions on small entities,” according to HHS.

White House Deputy Press Secretary Judd Deere denied the proposed rule is a broken Trump promise to protect LGBT people.

“The president is in no way undermining his promise or preventing LGBT people from adopting. LGBT people can still adopt and that will not change,” Deere told the Washington Blade.

“The administration is rolling back an Obama-era rule that was proposed in the 12’o clock hour of the last administration that jeopardizes the ability of faith-based providers to continue serving their communities,” Deere said. “The federal government should not be in the business of forcing child welfare providers to choose between helping children and their faith.”

In January, the Trump administration issued a waiver to South Carolina allowing faith-based foster care and adoption agencies to turn away secular and other parents whose religious beliefs don’t match the provider’s.

HHS is now accepting public comment on the proposed rule. Family Equality is asking LGBTQ+ supporters, allies and families to share their stories to be filed with the HHS.

A section of the organization’s website directs people to “Speak out against the Trump administration’s proposed license to discriminate.”