Action Alert! SB 1138, SB 1165 and SB1399 being heard Wednesday
Tomorrow, Wednesday, March 16th, the anti-trans bills SB 1138 and SB 1165 will be headed to debate in the committee of the whole and then to a vote on the floor. We are strongly opposed to these bills and we are urging everyone to reach out to their representatives and post on social media in opposition.
Another anti-LGBTQ bill, SB1399, is up for a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee at 9 a.m. on Wednesday. This bill would allow state-funded religious adoption organizations to discriminate based on religion. The ACLU reports that a similar law in Tennessee has allowed a Christian adoption agency accepting state money to refuse to work with Jewish families. Importantly, this bill would allow state-funded religious adoption and foster agencies to discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity. It also allows foster parents to guide, instruct, or raise a child "in a manner consistent with a religious belief,” which places LGBTQ foster children in potentially discriminatory homes.
SB1399 talking points (Via the ACLU of Arizona)
SB 1399 Opposition Talking Points Re Negative Impact on Foster Children
Arizona is experiencing a shortage of licensed foster homes for children in foster care. “There are currently 3,255 homes, an 11% drop compared with this time last year and down 33% from the recent high-water mark of 4,875 homes in 2017.”
Foster care licensing agencies play a critical role in recruiting, licensing, and supporting families who foster children. As the findings to SB 1399 note, some of Arizona’s 25 foster care licensing agencies have religious affiliations and some do not. Having an array of foster care licensing agencies is important to ensuring the wide availability of services to all qualified families interested in fostering a child. No agency in Arizona is required to provide services that conflict with its religious beliefs. In fact, just last year, DCS created an online portal to orient interested families to the process and to help them connect with an agency that aligns with their needs and beliefs.
In short, because Arizona does not require foster care agencies to provide services that conflict with religious beliefs there is no need for this bill.
Further, by codifying discrimination based on religious beliefs, this bill could very well have the opposite of its stated purpose and create a chilling effect on families stepping up to foster children. Arizona needs more foster families with a wide diversity of religious beliefs and other characteristics. Families who believe they might be discriminated against because of their own religious beliefs or values are unlikely to step forward.
Studies show that 30 to 40% of you older youth in foster care identify as LGBTQ+. Arizona needs to ensure that there are affirming foster homes for these children.
Additionally, this bill could do real harm to children and families. The goal of the foster care system is to safely reunify children with their parents whenever possible. In Arizona, over 35% of foster children will go home to their parents within twelve months of entering foster care. Foster care, by design, is temporary.
When a child is in foster care, their parents retain their constitutional right to direct the education and religious upbringing of their child—unless and until their parental rights are terminated. Arizona law also gives foster children the right “To attend community, school and religious services and activities of the child's choice to the extent that it is appropriate for the child, as planned and discussed with the child's placement worker and caseworker…” ARS 8-529 (6).
The role of a foster family is to provide temporary care to a child in need. Certainly, if that arrangement becomes permanent through adoption, the adoptive parents have the right to instruct and raise the child in their own faith. But while a child is in foster care, the biological parents and child’s religious beliefs must be respected. Foster families are currently free to decline the placement of a child for any reason, including a difference in religious belief. Again, there is no need for this bill.
ARS 8-530 specifically prohibits the discrimination of foster parents on the basis of religion, race, creed, sex, national origin, age, or physical handicap.