A social worker smiles, handing over an application form and a pen. "Welcome adoptive parents!" the form says in a bright red circle. But in small print beneath that warm welcome, there's a caveat: "(No gays.)"
That's the opening of a new PSA from the Movement Advancement Project (MAP), released in partnership with the Child Welfare League of America and the National Association of Social Workers. It aims to raise awareness of discriminatory adoption practices in many states, which allow the agencies that place kids with adoptive parents to refuse some families — like those with same-gender parents — on the basis of religion.
Ineke Mushovic of MAP said during a press conference Wednesday that Fox News cited the negative messaging at the beginning of the ad. But negative messaging and powerful imagery are par for the course for PSA commercials like this one. (Case in point: those heart-twisting Sarah McLachlan ASPCA commercials that seem to run constantly during the holidays.) And MAP feels that an ad like this, one that shows the very real consequences for kids when loving and capable families are turned away from them, are as important as they are hard to watch.
The ad and a coinciding report about religious exemptions for adoption agencies came out alongside an ACLU lawsuit in Michigan, challenging the state for allowing adoption agencies to turn families away for religious reasons.
Kristy and Dana Dumont, two of the plaintiffs in the case, were turned away from two adoption agencies in their county. "We wanted to adopt from our communities," Kristy Dumont said during the press conference. But both of the agencies they contacted are faith-based and told the couple that they don't place kids with same-gender parents because it's against their religion. “It felt like a closed door: we felt helpless,” she said.
The laws that keep families like the Dumonts out of adoption are based on the freedom of religion, but MAP and other agencies like the Child Welfare League of America say religion has no role in the process of placing children with new families, especially since many of the agencies who arrange adoptions are using state tax dollars to do so. Like many states, Michigan enters into contracts with private adoption agencies to find foster and adoptive families for children who are wards of the state.
"It’s in the best interest of the child that we make objective decisions based on standards and ethics," Christine James-Brown of the Child Welfare League of America, said at the same press conference. Rather than making decisions of whether or not a parent is right for a child based solely on their sexuality.
"The ad may make people uncomfortable but we believe viewers care about this issue," Mushovic said. "And they need to grapple with how laws like this can be abused."
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