Family Equality Team on Capitol Hill for House Oversight Hearing on “Religious Liberty” Attacks

Today the House Committee on Oversight and Reform convened a hearing to address the Trump administration’s attacks against the LGBTQ+ community in the name of “religious liberty.”  Representatives Carol Maloney (D-NY) and Jamie Raskin (D-MD) chaired the hearing.

Members of Congress Testify

Out of four Members of Congress speaking in the first panel, three delivered powerful testimony detailing the Trump Administration’s attacks on the LGBTQ+ community. Representative Sean Patrick Maloney kicked off the hearing by sharing his own experience adopting as an LGBTQ+ person, saying: “When you allow people to discriminate against [LGBTQ+] couples, you deprive children of good moms, dads, and families who are going to love them. And when you dress it up as religious liberty, you simply sanction discrimination and deprive those children of the home they deserve.”

Representative Mark Takano, a fellow co-chair of the Congressional LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus, went on to argue that while the United States has a robust tradition of exchanging beliefs, it is appropriate to prevent organizations that choose to be funded by taxpayer dollars from using religion as a pretext for discrimination. Representative Joe Kennedy then bolstered Takano’s claim, explaining that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act was enacted as a shield for religious minorities—not as a sword to empower anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination that would prevent people like Maloney from becoming parents.

Foster Alumnus, LGBTQ+ People, and Faith Leaders Testify

Ernesto Olivares, a member of the Every Child Deserves a Family Campaign’s LGBTQ+ and Two Spirit Foster Alumni Team – supported by Family Equality and FosterClub – was the first witness to testify. By sharing his experience growing up in foster care in South Texas, Olivares demonstrated that a license to discriminate in adoption and foster care doesn’t just affect prospective parents. LGBTQ/2S youth are twice as likely to report being treated poorly in foster care are much more likely to become homeless. “Many LGBTQ+ foster youth receive such poor treatment in foster care that they choose homelessness over foster care,” Olivares said.

He closed his testimony by looking towards his future and urging Congress to pass the Every Child Deserves a Family Act, HR3114. “One day, I want to be a foster dad and open my home and my heart to kids like me. However, with discrimination in my state, I worry that I will be turned away because I am gay.”

After Olivares, Evan Minton shared the harrowing experience he had trying to receive gender-affirming healthcare at a local Catholic hospital, and the Human Rights Campaign’s Sarah Warbelow dug into the egregious number of assaults against the LGBTQ+ community and the devastating effects of these anti-LGBTQ+ actions.

Finally, CEO of Family Equality, the Reverend Stan J. Sloan, took the floor to remind us what’s at stake: There are 440,000 children in the child welfare system, over a quarter of whom are available to be adopted today. And yet, 11 states now sanction discrimination against otherwise qualified prospective parents.

Sloan also took a moment to speak from the heart about faith traditions’ call to help the most vulnerable among us, including children in the foster care system. “I’ve always been taught that the right to swing your fist stops at someone else’s nose,” says Sloan, reiterating that we cannot weaponize religious beliefs to harm others.

Impassioned words from the rest of the Committee followed: Representative Rashida Tlaib urged the panel to address violence against transgender people across the country, Representative Deb Haaland submitted the testimony of Every Child Deserves a Family Campaign’s LGBTQ+ and Two Spirit Foster Alumni Team member Daryle Conquering Bear, and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez used her time to remember Layleen Polanco, who lost her life because of the “mosaic of marginalization” faced by LGBTQ+ people of color.

Rep. Katie Porter told the story of two gay foster to adopt dads from her district shared through Family Equality. At the close of the hearing, Chairman Raskin also entered Family Equality’s formal testimony into the record. He also entered into the Congressional record stories of discrimination faced by twenty-two LGBTQ+ foster and adoptive parents and young people in foster care provided to Family Equality—including that of Queer Eye dad Karamo Brown.

Watch the complete hearing live stream below: