Press Release

In Light Of States Across The Country Passing Anti-LGBTQ+ Legislation, Gillibrand Introduces Legislation To Outlaw Discrimination Against LGBTQ+ Couples Looking To Adopt, Protect LGBTQ+ Youth In Foster Care 

Jun 28, 2024

In light of states across the country passing anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand introduced legislation to ban discrimination against LGBTQ+ couples looking to adopt and protect LGBTQ+ children in the foster care system. The John Lewis Every Child Deserves a Family Act would prohibit discrimination by federally funded child welfare agencies against individuals and couples on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, or marital status. The bill would also improve the safety and well-being of LGBTQ+ children involved with federally funded child welfare services by establishing a National Resource Center for LGBTQ+ youth and by banning harmful practices like conversion therapy.

Currently, thirteen states permit child welfare agencies to turn away qualified foster and adoptive parents on the basis of their social identity, even though hundreds of thousands of children in the American foster care system need a loving home and same-sex couples are more likely to pursue adoption. Oklahoma, for instance, passed a bill in 2018 allowing religious-based adoption agencies to discriminate against same-sex couples, single people, and non-Christians. Several other states have passed or are considering similar legislation. Meanwhile, LGBTQ+ children, who are overrepresented in the system and make up at least 30 percent of children in foster care, suffer greater rates of mistreatment and experience worse outcomes than their peers. Gillibrand’s bill would outlaw discriminatory practices against both LGBTQ+ children and adopters. 

As states across the country attempt to pass anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, this bill will solidify protections for some of our most marginalized and vulnerable children and enable them to find loving homes,” said Senator Gillibrand. “It will ensure that taxpayer-funded adoption service and foster care providers cannot engage in discrimination against children or potential parents. It will ban deeply damaging practices like conversion therapy and help place foster youth in safe and loving homes. I’m proud to be introducing this legislation and I look forward to fighting to get it passed.” 

Children in foster care are among the most vulnerable people in our society, said Representative Danny K. Davis, who leads companion legislation in the House. “And government has a unique responsibility to ensure that each and every child in foster care finds a loving, affirming family. The Every Child Deserves a Family Act promotes the best interests of children by increasing the number of foster and adoptive homes available to all children in foster care. I am proud to join with Senator Gillibrand to champion this bill to protect foster youth and families from discrimination based on religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and marital status.”

“FosterClub hears directly from young people regarding the unique challenges LGBTQ+ and Two-Spirit youth encounter while in foster care. We’re proud to support the John Lewis Every Child Deserves a Family Act, which aims to provide vital protections against discrimination and harm, ultimately reducing the negative experiences faced by too many LGBTQ+ youth in foster care. Our network of young people who have lived through foster care know this is urgently needed.” Celeste Bodner, Executive Director of FosterClub, the national network for young people in foster care.

The John Lewis Every Child Deserves a Family Act would provide critical protections for the 1 in 3 youth in foster care who identify as LGBTQ+, families of origin, and countless LGBTQ+ individuals nationwide who wish to form their families through foster care and adoption,” said Jaymes Black, President & CEO of Family Equality, the leading national nonprofit for LGBTQ+ families. “As LGBTQ+ individuals across the country, particularly trans and nonbinary youth, face an unprecedented level of attacks, it is important now more than ever that Congress acts to ensure our child welfare system supports and affirms all youth and does not let prejudice keep them from a safe and loving family. Family Equality thanks Senator Gillibrand and Congressman Davis for their continued leadership and commitment to this important bill and to LGBTQ+ youth and our families.”

Families and children who are involuntarily involved in a government system that is meant to protect children and reunify families have an absolute right to expect that the child welfare system will treat them equitably and with dignity and respect. The John Lewis Every Child Deserves a Family Act, makes it explicit and clear that LGBTQ+ children and families, including kin and foster and adoptive families, across the country are protected from harm and discrimination as they interact with agencies and service providers. Nothing could be more straightforward and more essential than ensuring that a system that is supposed to ensure children’s well-being is not perpetuating harm,” said Currey Cook, Senior Counsel and Youth in Out-of-Home Care Project Director, Lambda Legal.

The John Lewis Every Child Deserves a Family Act is vital legislation. It will help eliminate the barriers for LGBTQ folx to have families. More importantly, it gives LGBTQ young people in the child welfare system hope and provides them a pathway to permanency, stability, and a safe and loving environment. We must continue John Lewis’ legacy by passing this legislation. Let’s get into trouble for the LGBTQ community, necessary trouble,” said Whitney Bunts, Senior Director of Public Policy at True Colors United.

“Discrimination against LGBTQIA+ children, youth and parents has no place in child welfare services,” said Linda Spears, President and CEO of the Child Welfare League of America. “Discrimination too often creates stress and leads to trauma in the lives of children, especially for those children and youth in foster care, who may not have the stable and loving family they deserve. To ensure that LGBTQIA+ children and youth in care have the quality care they deserve, we must have the broadest possible pool of foster and adoptive families. We can accomplish this by identifying and assessing applicants on the basis of their ability to successfully parent a child and work with diverse family dynamics, not on the basis of their gender identity or sexuality. CWLA is proud to endorse the Every Child Deserves a Family Act and applauds Senator Gillibrand for the introduction and support of this important legislation.”

This legislation is cosponsored by Senators Baldwin, Bennet, Blumenthal, Booker, Brown, Cantwell, Cardin, Carper, Casey, Coons, Cortez Masto, Duckworth, Durbin, Fetterman, Hickenlooper, Hirono, Kaine, Kelly, King, Klobuchar, Luján, Markey, Menendez, Merkley, Murphy, Murray, Ossoff, Padilla, Peters, Reed, Rosen, Sanders, Schatz, Shaheen, Smith, Stabenow, Van Hollen, Warren, Welch, Whitehouse, and Wyden. 

Representative Danny Davis leads companion legislation in the House. 

A full list of endorsing organizations is available hereThe full text of the John Lewis Every Child Deserves a Family Act is available here