Great news for LGBTQ families out of the Cornhusker State this past Friday: the Nebraska Supreme Court upheld a 2015 decision allowing same-sex couples to serve as foster parents. With the decision, the last ban on LGBTQ people serving as foster parents in the United States has fallen.
The case pertained to an infamous 1995 memorandum penned by the state’s Department of Social Services, which reads like an edict issued by a particularly bigoted version of the Emerald City’s blustery gatekeeper:
“It is my decision that effective immediately, it is the policy of the Department of Social Services that children will not be placed in the homes of persons who identify themselves as homosexuals. This policy also applies to the area of foster home licensure in that, effective immediately, no foster home license shall be issues.”
The decision follows a 2015 state district court case, argued by the ACLU of Nebraska, which already found the draconian policy unconstitutional. The state, however, appealed the decision to the Nebraska Supreme Court, arguing for their right to place children in the most “family-like setting.”
The court on Friday explained, in no uncertain terms, its thoughts on this thinly veiled attempt to continue discriminating against our families. This ban on “homosexuals,” the court wrote, was “legally indistinguishable from a sign reading ‘Whites Only’ on the hiring-office door.”
The Nebraska decision is part of a long line of pro-LGBTQ rulings that are making it easier than ever for our families to legally adopt and foster children. Just last year, Alabama and Mississippi lifted similar bans against LGBTQ couples serving as adoptive or foster parents. And today, no state in the country has a policy that explicitly prohibits LGBTQ couples from adopting or serving as foster parents.
Still, these cases should remind us that—while we live in an era that has brought us nationwide marriage rights, the downfall of Don't Ask Don't Tell, and Lady Gaga—we still have a long way to go before LGBTQ families are not discriminated against. Laws, unfortunately, only get us so far. Even in states that do have parenting protections for LGBTQ couples, barriers continue to exist; far too often, state employees are still able to delay or outright deny foster care or adoption proceedings for LGBTQ families.
Pro-LGBTQ court decisions are certainly a reason to celebrate. But if our current political climate has taught us anything, it's that we need to change hearts and minds, too. True equality will be reached once the idea of two gay dads serving as foster parents is no longer controversial.
For now, though, let’s enjoy this victory because it’s a big one; today, there are 6,231 children in foster care in Nebraska, 913 of who still need homes. Many LGBTQ families stand ready and willing to serve as loving foster families for some of these children; thanks to today’s ruling, they can now legally do so.
For more on LGBTQ adoption and foster care rights, check out: