You know how we’ve all been joking that the world is becoming The Hand Maid’s Tale right before our eyes? Well, it isn’t a joke anymore. In fact, it never was.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services granted a waiver on January 23 that allows state-funded foster care agencies in South Carolina to deny services to same-sex and/or non-Christian couples.
What the actual fuck.
Let’s backtrack a little. Back when the world made sense and presidents couldn’t sign discriminatory rules into effect — aka the eight peaceful years of the Obama administration — foster care agencies that received funding from the federal government were prohibited from discriminating against foster parent applicants based on their religious beliefs.
Then in 2018, South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster — a member of the Republican party whose platform includes ceasing federal funding for abortion clinics, the belief that life begins at conception, and disproval of the transgender bathroom law — filed for a waiver for Miracle Hill Ministries. The waiver, which the Department of Health and Human Services approved, allows Miracle Hill, based in Greenville, South Carolina, to discriminate against potential foster parents on the basis of religious beliefs and therefore, sexual orientation.
So, what does this mean? It means agencies throughout the state of South Carolina can retain their government funding while denying guardianship to potential adoptive parents who are either homosexual or non-Christian.
The waiver does stipulate, however, that organizations must refer any rejected potentials to another agency or the Department of Social Services.
In a statement, McMaster said,
“By granting this waiver, President Trump and Secretary Azar have shown the entire world that, as Americans, our fundamental right to practice religion, regardless of our faith, will not be in jeopardy under this administration.”
Right. As if that’s what President Trump and Secretary Azar have shown the world. That our fundamental rights aren’t at risk in this country. If you’re Christian. And heterosexual.
Do you hear that incessant thumping sound, friends? It’s me banging my head against my desk repeatedly.
But, wait! This is an isolated incident, right? Surely, Trump isn’t launching an all-out brawl against same-sex couples and their God-given rights as American citizens?
In other recent news, a lesbian couple from Missouri was denied access to a retirement home because of their sexuality. The official quote? Their same-sex marriage was “not understood in the Bible.”
A federal judge ruled against the couple, Bev Nance and Mary Walsh, who have been married for 10 years and together for 40. Friendship Village denied Bev and Mary’s request for senior citizen housing, citing that their policy defines “spouses” as “heterosexual spouses” only.
So, yeah, I think it’s safe to say that our fundamental right to practice religion or to love whoever we love is, regardless of faith, regardless of sex, is in jeopardy under this administration.
Because it’s not just one story. It’s thousands.
If you take a look at other recent headlines, you would quickly realize that discrimination is the new normal. Discrimination against LGBTQ+ people and non-Christians has been endorsed for the past two years of Trump and even before then during his presidential campaign.
That kind of endorsement green lights discrimination at every level. In June 2018, the Supreme Court ruled that a baker could refuse to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. And we all know that Karen Pence, wife of Vice President Mike Pence, now works at a school that prohibits gay teachers and students.
So yeah, if you’re feeling like discrimination is being glossed over right now, you’d be right.
But fuck that. Discrimination should never be the norm. Never.
How dare the U.S. government rule in favor of discrimination against adoptive parents because of sexuality or religion! Foster children need loving, healthy, nurturing homes, and there is so much wrong with the foster system already. Now we’re going to deny perfectly willing humans with the capacity to love and keep a child safe?
There are far worse things a person could be than gay or not Christian. I’d prefer our foster care legislation focused on not handing over foster children to prospectives with addiction, abusive, or criminal backgrounds.
That’d be a good start.
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Photo by Brett Sayles
Steph Osmanski is a freelance writer and social media consultant who specializes in health and wellness content. Her words have appeared in Seventeen, Life & Style, Darling Magazine, and more. She is currently pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing at Stony Brook Southampton and writing a memoir.