Continuing our examination of challenges to marriage equality, let’s consider the D.C. case, Marouf v. Azar, where the issue is whether the federal government, on the basis of religious freedom, violated the Constitution by using taxpayer dollars to fund services that discriminated against lawfully married persons.
Two lesbian, married couples, and federal taxpayers have challenged the federal government because part of their tax payments (actually part of all U.S. taxpayers’ dollars) is used to fund programs that discriminate against them with respect to adoption and foster parenting.
Most readers probably know by now, because of recent events, that the federal government provides care to refugee children who reach the U.S. without a parent or legal guardian; the care is provided via the Unaccompanied Refugee Minor Program. The government further provides assistance to children who arrive without a parent or legal guardian and have no legal status through the Unaccompanied Children program. Homeland Security initially seizes children in both programs and transfers them to the Office of Refugee Resettlement program (ORR), which is governed by the U.S. Health and Human Services Department (HHS). ORR then places the children in foster homes or with adoptive parents and provides other care through religious organizations such as the organization at issue in this case, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
The USCCB openly denounces LGBTQ persons and families because of the organization’s religious doctrine and clearly provides this denunciation in its application for funding from the federal government. Yet, ORR provides grants comprised of taxpayer dollars to the USCCB despite the organization’s discriminatory policy and, in so doing, violates its parent agency’s – HHS’s – grantmaking rules because HHS follows the law settled by Windsor and Obergefell.
One couple, Fatma Marouf and Bryn Esplin, and filed a lawsuit based on these facts after they tried to apply for adoption through USCCB and, during a telephone interview, were denied the opportunity to continue the application process. Fatma and Bryn were told that they were unsuitable because their family did not “mirror the holy family” and thus, were unqualified to foster parent or adopt. In response to this clear discrimination by an organization funded by the federal government, as of February 2018, Fatma and Bryn are seeking redress alleged violations of their rights under the Establishment Clause, the Equal Protection Clause of the Fifth Amendment, and the Substantive Due Process Clause under the Fifth Amendment.
Really…what is it with keeping children from being loved by lawfully, married couples?