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Gay Dads Respond to the Mormon Church's Policy Reversal

We asked gay dads with experience in the Mormon Church what they made of the religion's recent about face

Jared Lynton

In November 2015, the Mormon Church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) announced a new policy decision that shocked many in their community: not only would same-sex married couples be considered "apostates," but even their children would be barred from receiving church blessing and baptisms.

The move was immediately met with backlash. Some allies resigned from the church in protest. Others stood by the church's decision, creating chasms within families. According to the Salt Lake Tribute, some even committed suicide.

Last week, however, the church did an about face: just three and a half years after first announcing its policy, children of LGBTQ parents can now be baptized and same-sex couples are no longer "apostates." (Though "homosexual acts" are still very much a sin.)

We caught up with several gay dads in our community with experience with the Mormon religion to get their perspective on the change.


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Change the World

Bill Allowing Discrimination Against LGBTQ Adoptive Parents Advances in Tennessee

Tennessee's anti-LGBTQ adoption bill still needs to be passed by the State Senate and signed by the Governor before becoming law.

Just this past week, we received the good news that Michigan will no longer permit state welfare agencies to discriminate against LGBQT parents in adoption proceedings, bringing the total number of states with so-called "religious freedom" exemption down to 9.

However, anti-LGBTQ advocates in two states, Tennessee and Arkansas, are both attempting to pass similar statewide "religious freedom" bills. The effort in Tennessee just received a major boost after passing the state's House of Representatives on Monday. The bill still needs to be passed by the Senate and signed by the Governor, both of which are currently controlled by Republicans.

Chris Sanders, the executive director of Tennessee Equality Project, put out a statement saying, "If this bill becomes law, same-sex couples, people of various religious beliefs, and people with no religious beliefs now face the prospect of being turned away from adoption agencies that they helped fund because they are labeled morally or religiously objectionable, which leaves children and youth with longer wait times for permanent homes."

Will be sure to keep readers posted as the story unfolds in both Tennessee and Arkansas.


Change the World

Michigan Will No Longer Permit Discrimination Against LGBTQ Adoptive Parents

Michigan just rescinded its "religious freedom" law that allowed child welfare agencies to discriminate against LGBTQ people.

According to LGBTQ Nation, Michigan will no longer allow faith-based adoption agencies to turn away same-sex couples. The decision is thanks in part to a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union.

"Limiting the opportunity for a child to be adopted or fostered by a loving home not only goes against the state's goal of finding a home for every child, it is a direct violation of the contract every child-placing agency enters into with the state," said Attorney General Dana Nessel.

Nessel, who is raising two kids with her wife, Alanna Maguire, is the first LGBTQ person to ever be elected statewide in Michigan.

As LGBTQ Nation reports, LGBTQ advocates widely applauded the decision:

"Our children need every family that is willing and able to provide them with a loving home," said Leslie Cooper, deputy director of the ACLU LGBT & HIV Project, in a press release. "When agencies choose to accept taxpayer dollars to provide public child welfare services, they must put the needs of the children first."

"Attorney General Nessel makes clear Michigan's commitment to uphold existing nondiscrimination protections," said Denise Brogan-Kator, chief policy officer at Family Equality Council, in a statement. "Furthermore, Nessel's statement demonstrates that she understands that while religious freedom is a core American value, religious beliefs should never be used as an excuse to harm others, or in this case, to reduce the number of loving homes available to children in the Michigan child welfare system."

Michigan's decision brings the total number of states with so-called "religious freedom" laws that permit discrimination against LGBTQ would-be parents down to nine: Alabama, Kansas, Mississippi, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, and Virginia. Two other states, Arkansas and Tennessee, are attempting to pass "religious freedom" bills this year:

Read more here.

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Study Finds Two-Thirds of Gay Dads Experienced Stigma in Last Year

The study also found that over half of gay dads have avoided certain social situations in the last year for fear of experiencing stigma.

According to new research by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the vast majority of gay men and their children experience some form of stigma. The findings are based on a survey of 732 gay father across 47 states in the United States.

More gay men are becoming fathers each year, and have more options for doing so than ever before: including adoption, foster care, and surrogacy. However as the study's authors write: "Despite legal, medical, and social advances, gay fathers and their children continue to experience stigma and avoid situations because of fear of stigma. Increasing evidence reveals that stigma is associated with reduced well-being of children and adults, including psychiatric symptoms and suicidality"

Almost two-thirds of respondents, or 63.5%, reported experiencing stigma based on being a gay father within the last year. Over half, or 51.2%, said they have avoided situations for fear of stigma, in the past year. Importantly, the study found that fathers living in states with more legal protections for LGBTQ people and families experienced fewer barriers and stigma. Most experiences of stigma (almost 35%) occurred, unsurprisingly, in a religious environment. But another quarter of gay dads said they experienced stigma from a wide variety of other sources, including: family members, neighbors, waiters, service providers, and salespeople

Surprisingly (or perhaps not?) another source of stigma cited by the study originates from other gay men. "Gay men report suspicion and criticism for their decision to be parents from gay friends who have not chosen parenthood." The study also says gay dads often feel "isolation in their parental role."

The study concludes, "Despite growing acceptance of parenting by same-gender adults, barriers and stigma persist. States' legal and social protections for lesbian and gay individuals and families appear to be effective in reducing experiences of stigma for gay fathers."

Read the whole study here.

News

Kansas' New Governor Is Already Making Moves to Protect LGBTQ Families

According to several recent interviews, Governor-elect Laura Kelly hopes to rescind a recently passed law that allows adoption agencies to discriminate against LGBTQ parents

Laura Kelly, Governor-elect of Kansas, and one of the most surprising Democratic victors to come out of the 2018 midterm elections, is already proving her pro-LGBTQ bonafides. Recently, she vowed to block a new state law that allows adoption agencies to discriminate against LGBTQ couples, arguing the such a move was unconstitutional.

"If there is way to direct the agency to not implement that, then I will do that," Kelly said during her first post election press conference, according to NBC News.

The law, which passed earlier this year, currently allows agencies that receive taxpayer money to refuse to place children with a variety of would-be parents, including LGBTQ couples, interfaith couples, and single parents. Governor-elect Kelly, who was until her recent election a former state senator representing Topeka, was among the legislators to vote against the measure.

According to Gay Star News, Kelly also recently promised to sign an executive order protecting state workers from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Though Kansas' last Democratic Governor, Kathleen Sebelius, signed a similar measure into effect back in 2003, it was rescinded once Republican Governor Sam Brownback took office.

Prohibiting protection of state LGBTQ employees is "absolutely unconstitutional," according to Tomas Witt, Executive Director of Equality Kansas in a recent interview with Metro Weekly. "These are agencies providing a service to taxpayers with taxpayer dollars, and turning away taxpayers. This type of statute has been struck down in other states, and we expect that if this goes to court, it will be struck down in Kansas as well."

We will be sure to keep GWK readers posted as these stories unfold in Kansas.

Change the World

Federal Judge Rules Against Adoption Agency's Attempt to Discriminate Against LGBTQ Parents

Many challenges to LGBTQ adoption continue to exist, however, including a Federal amendment that would grant tax-funded adoption agencies the right to discriminate nationally.

This week brought us some much-needed good news in the fight to protect LGBTQ adoption rights: U.S. District Judge Petrese B. Tucker ruled that Catholic Services Society (CSS) violated the city of Philadelphia's Fair Practice Ordinance due to the organization's refusal to work with prospective parents' based on no other reason than their sexual orientation.

The decision is the result of a suit brought by CSS against Philadelphia. Last May, the city announced it was suspending foster care placements with two agencies, CSS and Bethany Christian Services, given their refusal to place children with LGBTQ prospective parents. While Bethany Christian Services ultimately agreed to stop discriminating against same-sex parents, CSS sued the city instead, and lost.

Judge Tucker found that no "substantial burden" existed on on CSS's religious exercise in providing foster care to children, writing that, "In essence, if CSS provides its services consistent with the minimal requirements of the all-comers provisions of the Fair Practices Ordinance, then CSS may continue to provide foster care to children.

Elsewhere around the country, however, the news on LGBTQ adoption rights has been much less encouraging. Over the course of the year, news hasn't been great for the LGBTQ community's adoption rights. Over the course of the year, a slew of anti-LGBTQ adoption measures have been cropping up in state legislatures all across the country. At the federal level this month, Republicans passed an amendment to an appropriations bill that if enacted will allow tax-funded adoption agencies to discriminate against LGBTQ adoptive parents on the grounds of religious freedom.

Get Involved!

Want to take action? Look up your federal representatives here and demand they reject the inclusion of the anti-LGBTQ amendment in the appropriations bill passed by Republicans earlier this week.

Have you experienced discrimination as a potential gay adoptive or foster parent? We want to hear about it. Contact us at dads@gayswithkids.com and tell us about your experience.

And stay tuned to Gays With Kids as we continue to monitor and report on developments in anti-discrimination protections for adoptive LGBTQ parents, on both the state and federal level.

Change the World

U.S. Republican Lawmakers Amend Funding Bill to Give Adoption Providers License to Discriminate Against LGBTQ Parents

Call your representatives today to demand they reject the inclusion of this anti-LGBTQ amendment in the appropriations bill

Anti-LGBTQ lawmakers across the country are attempting to allow state-funded child welfare agencies to discriminate against same-sex couples and others on the grounds of "religious freedom." According to the Desert News, there have been 140 "religious freedom" bills debated just this year, many of which would negatively impact the LGBTQ community. Two such bills restricting adoption rights have already passed, in Oklahoma and Kansas, with another pending in South Carolina.

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