Tag: Service

New Service Offers Legal and Fertility Resources for LGBTQ Parents and Parents-to-Be

New Service Offers Legal and Fertility Resources for LGBTQ Parents

A new service, founded by a queer mom and attorney, aims to provide LGBTQ parents and prospective parents with family building resources and a personally vetted directory of family lawyers.

Gena Jaffe (L), wife Jordana (R) and their two children. Used with permission.

Gena Jaffe (L), wife Jordana (R) and their two children. Used with permission.

Gena Jaffe, a Philadelphia-based lawyer and mom, founded connecting rainbows after posting on social media about her and her spouse’s own journey to parenthood and receiving lots of questions. She told me via e-mail, “My wife and I have openly shared our fertility journeys on Instagram, as well as the second parent adoption process we had to go through. As a result, I have received a ton of questions over the years. While I am a practicing attorney, I do not specialize in estate planning or adoption, so I could never help anyone who came to me. Further, fertility is near and dear to my heart, and I feel a special connection to all those going through the treatments.”

After Amy Coney Barrett was nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court last October, too, Jaffe said, “I started to talk more on my Instagram about the things same sex families should consider putting into place, God forbid same sex marriage was overturned.” She realized many prospective LGBTQ parents were encountering both a lack of information and misinformation. “I cannot even tell you how many people told me that lawyers either (1) would not work with them because they were a same sex couple or (2) gave them completely false information,” such as telling them that being on the birth certificate is enough to grant full legal rights to both same-sex parents. (As I’ve said myself many times, it’s not.) Jaffe then got the idea “to create a directory of attorneys across the US and Canada who specialize in working with LGBTQ+ couples on fertility law, adoption and estate planning.”

The LGBTQ Law Association already maintains a Family Law Attorney Directory and Family Equality has an LGBTQ+ Family Building Directory of fertility clinics, cryobanks, midwives, doulas, surrogacy clinics, and more who have completed one or more of the organization’s Open Door Professional Training Courses, but Jaffe says her directory will be different in having both legal and fertility resources in one place. In addition, she said, “My database will be unique in that it will be personal. I am limiting how many attorneys I recommend so that I can ensure that the people listed are (1) well-versed in working with the LGBTQ+ community and (2) it’s not overwhelming for people to decide who to call. I have garnered trust with my audience over the years, so they can feel confident in whom I am recommending.”

She explained further:

I will be capping it around five lawyers per state (in the larger states)—closer to three in the smaller states. I want to take the stress, overwhelm + research out of the equation for the individuals who are coming to the site. I am personally speaking to every lawyer who is listed on the site. I want to get a good sense of who they are, how they operate and how they will care for my community. I don’t need someone who has the most experience. I want someone who is not only competent but also compassionate. Someone who gets the younger generation.

The new website will include not only a directory of lawyers and fertility resources, but also expert interviews and a blog where “families can share their own fertility or adoption journeys, coming out stories and transition experiences.” She asserted, “I believe education is empowering, and I want to help people understand the journey and what to expect. My vision is that this space will help people feel less alone in whatever it is they are going through; a space where they can find comfort and hope.”

Informative and trustworthy resources are vital for us LGBTQ parents and parents-to-be. That’s why for years I’ve also maintained my own Mombian Resource Directory—which is in some ways a meta-directory of resources like connecting rainbows and the other directories mentioned above—on LGBTQ family building, legal issues, raising kids, caring for ourselves, and more. I appreciate that Jaffe is bringing her professional expertise to bear in offering LGBTQ folks a more focused approach to finding legal and family creation help, and I look forward to seeing how her site evolves.

How Big Could the Impact Be if Child Service Agencies Are Allowed to Discriminate?

How Big Could the Impact Be if Child Service Agencies

The U.S. Supreme Court is currently considering a case that could let taxpayer-funded adoption and foster care agencies around the country use their religious beliefs as a reason to discriminate against LGBTQ people and others. New research from the Movement Advancement Project (MAP) shows the widespread impact that could have on children in care.

Fulton Infographic - Movement Advancement Project

Infographic from MAP’s August report, “The High Stakes in the Fulton Case

In a report released yesterday, “What’s at Stake in Fulton: Kids in the Foster System” (PDF), MAP used data from the Children’s Bureau (part of the Department of Health and Human Services) to show that more than 1,200 child placement agencies contract with city, county, and/or state governments to care for children. Of those, 39.8 percent agencies are religiously affiliated, mostly (88 percent) with mainstream Christian denominations.

Depending on how the Supreme Court rules in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, the case it heard in early November, agencies around the country could be allowed to discriminate, and many children in the foster care system would be at risk. MAP notes that of course, “Just because an agency is religiously affiliated does not mean that it would seek a license to discriminate against LGBTQ families, single people, unmarried couples, or families who do not share the agency’s faith. In fact, many of these agencies would continue to serve diverse families even if the Supreme Court granted them a license to discriminate.”

At the same time, they warn, “The risk is not merely hypothetical. There are already clear examples of agencies seeking the ability to discriminate. And a June 2020 survey by the Center for American Progress and NORC at the University of Chicago found that two in five LGBTQ people said it would be “very difficult” or “not possible” to find another child placement agency if they were turned away by one, MAP relates.

MAP’s analysis of 2019 data also shows that children in the foster care system in the states that permit taxpayer-funded agencies to discriminate* were less likely to be placed with relatives and more likely to experience multiple placements, both of which are destabilizing and can negatively impact their well-being. States that allowed such discrimination made a combined 13 percent fewer placements with relatives compared to states without such legislation. And in those states, 5.4 percent more children (or a more than 9 percent increase) had two or more foster placements during their time in government care, as compared to other states. That difference equals an estimated 3,500 more children that experienced multiple placements. “If the Court granted a nationwide exemption to religious agencies, that 5.4% difference would amount to nearly 23,000 children currently in the foster system nationwide,” MAP concludes.

To counter the argument that closing religiously affiliated agencies that discriminate will have a similarly (or worse) negative effect on the homes available for children, MAP also notes that there is “no evidence that states with nondiscrimination policies have fewer registered foster families or more children in group homes than those without such laws.”

The court is expected to issue its ruling sometime in 2021, likely before the end of June. This is a case all of us should be watching.


*Kansas, Mississippi, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia all allow this; Tennessee passed its legislation in 2020, though, so its data was not included in the MAP analysis. Alabama and Michigan also allow religiously based discrimination, but not if agencies receive taxpayer funds.

Supreme Court Considers Whether Child Service Agencies Can Discriminate Against LGBTQ People

Next Week, a Crucial SCOTUS Case on Discrimination in Foster

Even as we have been waiting for the results of the presidential election, the U.S. Supreme Court heard a case yesterday that will determine whether taxpayer-funded foster care and adoption agencies—and possibly any provider of government-contracted services—can cite religious beliefs as a reason to discriminate against LGBTQ people and others. Here are some of the arguments made.

U.S. Supreme Court

For detailed background on the case, Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, I refer you to my piece from last week. In short, it began in 2018, when the City of Philadelphia stopped referring foster children to Catholic Social Services (CSS) because the agency would not license qualified same-sex couples to be foster or adoptive parents. CSS then brought a lawsuit in federal district court, which ruled for the city, as did an appeals court. CSS appealed to the Supreme Court, which took the case in February 2020. In June, the Trump administration filed a brief siding with CSS.

Yesterday, in front of a court that included the newly seated Amy Coney Barrett, lawyers for both CSS and the city presented their cases. All of the justices pushed on the question of whether CSS, in taking the city’s contract, was doing the city’s work or doing its own work and simply being licensed by the city. If the latter, the city would have less authority to enforce its nondiscrimination laws.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor pointed out that the city was paying CSS, and the government does not pay entities to take a license. Justice Stephen Breyer noted that the city isn’t asking CSS to endorse marriage for same-sex couples, merely that they meet the statutory requirements to be foster parents.

Prompted by more conservative Justices Samuel Alito and Brett Kavanaugh, however, CSS claimed that no same-sex couple had ever applied to the agency. If they had, it said, they would simply have been referred to another agency. CSS also emphasized its 200-year history of providing services to children and families and said the city was targeting it because of its religion.

Attorney Neal Katyal, arguing for the city, said it is not targeting CSS because of its religious beliefs, but because there are no exemptions to the city’s nondiscrimination laws. This isn’t a matter of religion versus LGBTQ rights, they said, but rather of religion versus religion. A ruling in favor of CSS could mean that people are turned away from government services because of their religion.

Alito, however, seemed to side with CSS in opining that the city wasn’t actually trying to ensure that same-sex couples could be foster parents, but that it simply “can’t stand the message that Catholic Social Services and the Archdiocese are sending by continuing to adhere to the old-fashioned view about marriage.”

CSS also argued to overturn the 1990 Supreme Court case Employment Division v. Smith, in which former Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the majority, said that Free Exercise Clause of the Constitution, which permits freedom of religion, does not mean that there are exemptions from “a neutral, generally applicable law” that is “not specifically directed to religious practice.” It was hard to tell if the justices seemed interested in overturning Smith, however.

Additionally, Hashim Moopan, a Justice Department lawyer arguing for CSS, said that the city does permissibly consider race or disability in placing children with foster parents. Why can’t it also consider sexual orientation? The city’s lawyers countered that there was a difference between child placements and the screening of potential parents, and it is the latter, where there are no exceptions, at issue here. When asked if CSS’ position of allowing exemptions to nondiscrimination laws could lead to discrimination on the basis of race, Moopan indicated that it wouldn’t, leading Breyer to ask whether “discrimination on the basis of race is different from discrimination based on gender, religion, and sexuality.” Moopan responded that “Race is unique in this country’s constitutional history,” and that eradicating racial discrimination “presents a particularly unique and compelling interest.” When pushed by Justice Elena Kagan on whether it is a compelling state interest to eradicate discrimination against gays and lesbians, he equivocated.

Alito seemed to side with the idea that racial discrimination and discrimination against same-sex couples are fundamentally different, citing Obergefell v. Hodges, the 2015 decision that legalized marriage for same-sex couples. “Didn’t we say in Obergefell that there are honorable reasons to continue to oppose same-sex marriage?” he asked. (The Obergefell decision, written by former Justice Anthony Kennedy, does indeed say, “Many who deem same-sex marriage to be wrong reach that conclusion based on decent and honorable religious or philosophical premises, and neither they nor their beliefs are disparaged here.”)

Justice Brett Kavanaugh also brought up this point in Obergefell, and told the city’s lawyers that while he understood the “stigmatic harm” of CSS’ policy on same-sex couples, “What I fear here is that the absolutist and extreme position that you’re articulating would require us to go back on the promise of respect for religious believers.”

Overall, the justices seemed split along ideological lines, although Chief Justice John Roberts’ thinking was less clear. The newest justice, Barrett, while she didn’t seem eager to overturn Smith, at one point tried to get Katyal to respond to a hypothetical situation in which a city has taken over all health care and contracts with private entities to provide it. Must a Catholic hospital then perform abortions? Katyal replied that the current case does not involve a government monopoly of previously private services, and that the government takeover of a private care system in itself raises constitutional problems.

Depending on how the court rules, the case could have far-reaching implications beyond just child services, as I explained last week. What’s next? Now we wait—even longer than for the outcome of the presidential election. A decision is expected by the end of the court’s current term next June.

H/t to C-SPAN and to ACLU lawyers Chase Strangio and Josh Block, who live tweeted the hearing.