Gay rights advocacy groups challenged the Trump government and the state of South Carolina this evening for a complaint against discrimination against a same-sex couple who wanted to be foster parents.
The American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal filed a complaint with the Department of Health and Human Services and South Carolina, and said officials refrained from an anti-discrimination rule, forcing a Christian ministry to prevent the couple from participating in the federally funded program.
& # 39; HHS and South Carolina have turned child welfare practice upside down by putting the interests of taxpayer-funded agencies above the interests of children & # 39 ;, wrote Leslie Cooper, deputy director of ACLU & # 39; s LGBT & HIV Project, in a blog post on Thursday.
Miracle Hill Ministries is the largest taxpayer-funded, state-contracted foster care agency in the state of South Carolina, according to the ACLU.
Miracle Hill Ministries in South Carolina rejected Brandy Welch and Eden Rogers because they are foster parents because they are a gay couple
Governor Henry McMaster of South Carolina sought a HHS waiver on behalf of the ministry that the group could move into Obama-era regulations that block discrimination in federally funded child welfare programs. The agency granted the exemption and Miracle Hill has been allowed to discriminate since
Ministry officials have said the organization only works with foster parents who meet its religious criteria – based on evangelical Protestant Christian beliefs.
"Miracle Hill Ministries has always served foster children, regardless of their beliefs or no beliefs at all," said Reid Lehman, president and CEO of the group. & # 39; In addition, our foster families comply with the law to respect the religious heritage and sexual orientation of the children they care for. & # 39;
Governor Henry McMaster of South Carolina sought a HHS waiver on behalf of the ministry that the group could move into Obama-era regulations that block discrimination in federally funded child welfare programs.
The agency granted the exemption and Miracle Hill has been allowed to discriminate since.
The McMaster office did not immediately respond to requests for comments from DailyMail.com. The South Carolina Attorney General's office declined to comment on pending disputes.
HHS officials also refused to comment, but pointed to a statement by Lynn Johnson, Assistant Secretary for Administration for Children and Families, when the exemption was first granted.
& # 39; Our federal agency should not – and according to Congress-approved laws – remove honest, motivated foster care providers from serving children without major government interest, especially as child welfare systems are thinly stretched from the opioid epidemic, & Johnson said at the time.
The trial comes at the same time that the Trump administration is considering a request from the Attorney General in Texas to eliminate the rules prohibiting discrimination in the placement of foster children based on the religion or sexual orientation of a parent.
The couple mentioned in the lawsuit, Eden Rogers and Brandy Welch, said the ministry's rejection was devastating.
Brandy Welch and Eden Rogers pose for a photo with their daughters, Jenny and Olivia. The couple tried to add foster children to their family, but were rejected because they were gay
& Faith is part of our family life, so it is offensive and insulting to us that Miracle Hill & # 39; s religious view of what a family should look like, deprives foster children of a nurturing, supportive home, & # 39; said Welch.
The couple has been married for three years and already have two children, but wanted to help the children in need because of Rogers' personal background.
& # 39; After family challenges, I have helped educate my brothers and sisters. I know first-hand the fear and stress that children feel when they are forced to leave their homes, & Rogers said. & # 39; As a mother and educator, I want to ensure that children in foster homes have a safe, supportive, and loving home when they need one. & # 39;
Reid said the ministry has tried to work with the couple, if not as a foster parent.
& # 39; We are sad that Mrs. Rogers and Mrs. Welch are not willing to support children if they cannot do this with Miracle Hill, & # 39; he said. & # 39; We consider it an honor to work with them if they shared our religious beliefs in faith and practice, and we encouraged them to volunteer in other ways with our ministry if they wanted to do so. & # 39;
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