Republicans are trying to block protections for LGBTQ+ foster kids

Congressional Republicans are scrambling to block a proposed federal government rule intended to protect LGBTQ+ youth in foster care from being shamed and abused.

Why? Because that’s who Republicans are and who they have always been.

In a cynical political move, Rep. Jim Banks, who hopes to seize Indiana’s open Senate seat later this year, introduced a bill last month designed to scuttle the federal government’s efforts to ensure LGBTQ+ youth in the foster system are placed with affirming families.  

According to The Hill, the Department of Health and Human Services’ proposed rule change would require welfare agencies to place LGBTQ+ youth in “environments free of hostility, mistreatment, or abuse” due to the child’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. Caregivers would also be required to receive cultural competency training.

The rule change is particularly important because lesbian, gay, and bisexual kids are far more likely to enter the foster care system than their heterosexual counterparts, according to one study published in 2019. A 2014 study of LGBTQ+ kids in the Los Angeles foster care system also found that nearly 38% of them said they had been treated poorly based on their gender expression, gender identity, or sexual orientation.

Thirty-four states and Washington, D.C., have taken steps to ensure better treatment of LGBTQ+ youth in foster care. But the federal government’s effort to protect kids who aren’t cookie-cutter heteronormative has congressional Republicans in a tizzy.

Banks’ legislation, the Sensible Adoption For Every Home Act, would shield foster care families from being required to support children with varying gender identities. Banks expressed particular concern about the new rule discriminating against caregivers.

But Banks isn’t alone in his passion for protecting the prerogative of caregivers to bully children who don’t conform to societal norms. Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina introduced a bill in November that would protect religious service providers from being penalized for refusing to act in ways that conflict with their “sincerely held religious beliefs.”

Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who joined Scott in cosponsoring the bill, slammed the Biden administration’s “new woke standards” in a December op-ed, suggesting the new rule would relegate some foster children to being “Homeless for the Holidays.”

More than a dozen Republican attorneys general have also gotten in on the action of standing up for the right of religious providers to abuse nonconforming children as they see fit.

In a November letter to the Children’s Bureau, the GOP attorneys general framed the rule as an attempt to weed out faith-based providers from the foster care system for refusing “to conform their religious beliefs on sexual orientation and gender identity.”

Republicans’ attempt to prevent the federal government from protecting LGBTQ+ youth in the foster care system opens yet another front in the GOP’s decades-long campaign to bully and discriminate against gay and transgender Americans.

It’s the same old story dating back to the mid-aughts, when Republicans pushed same-sex marriage bans across the country, only now they are explicitly targeting uniquely vulnerable children without a home and a family to protect them.

And while Republicans like Banks may use the issue to score political points with GOP voters in a primary, targeting LGBTQ+ youth in the foster care system won’t be winning back any suburban moms who broke with the party over the last handful of years.

Case in point: Last November, Republican school board candidates pushing anti-trans policies suffered stinging defeats in local races across the country in Virginia, Iowa, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Kansas. Meanwhile, transgender legislative candidates and high-profile Democrats who support trans rights had a very good night.

Turns out being hateful is also bad politics.

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