Statement on Religious Liberty and LGBTQ+ Adoption, (27 February 2020) Washington, D.C.

Speech Text

[1] Thank you, Chairwoman Maloney, Ranking Member Hice. I thank the committee for having this important hearing today.

[2] You know, in listening to the ranking member’s opening remarks, I was thinking maybe the day will come where people like me and Mark, some of the people behind us, won’t have to come in here like supplicants seeking our basic rights and we won’t be treated to expressions of discrimination dressed up as religious liberty.

[3] But even today, that is not the country we live in. You know, I’ve been with my husband for almost 28 years. We were allowed to get married just five years ago, and for 27 of those years, we’ve been raising children. We have three children.

[4] My oldest came to us when he was not quite three years old. He had been barely eating solid foods. He was sleeping in a drawer. He was living in squalor in one of the toughest neighborhoods in New York City. His parents were heroin addicts. They had four children. I think they loved their children. I know they loved drugs more, and they were unable to take care of them.

[5] And we didn’t set out to be parents. This wasn’t about fulfilling some desire we had. It was because someone asked us if we could help and we said we would. And soon after that his mom OD’d and there was no one to bury her, so we did.

[6] And his dad went to jail and there was no one to take care of this little boy, so we did. And it was the greatest thing that ever happened to us. We had been together for four months as a couple.

[7] That young man is 30 years old today, and I think if you asked him, Representative Hice, about the family he was raised in—well, let’s just say I’d go with what he has to say about the ability of LGBT couples to parent and to foster.

[8] And you know, it was a few years later that an adoption agency called us from Texas, sir—a group called the Adoption Alliance that was licensed in Texas and Nevada—and the reason they were calling us in New York was not because we were seeking to adopt.

[9] It was because they had learned in the 1990s that there were certain types of kids who were not going to be adopted, where the circumstances of their birth through no fault of their own, obviously, was difficult or confronting for traditional adoptive parents, where there were issues of HIV or rape or incest, sometimes mixed with concerns about interracial adoption.

[10] And what these adoption agencies learned, to their credit, was that there were LGBT couples in cities like New York who would say yes to these children. Not as an alternative to the straight couple that was gonna raise them, but as an alternative to never being adopted because no one was going to adopt these kids.

[11] And it was that insight that LGBT couples were willing to cross lines of difference because they had experienced doing so in their own lives—that they had less preoccupation or hysteria with things like HIV, that they were more willing to adopt across lines of difference, like race or religion—that there was an opportunity for kids that would not have a home to have a home.

[12] And so it is because of that, that on January 10, 2001, I learned of my oldest daughter, who had been born just five days earlier—we had no intention of adopting—that she had been born in Texas to a United States military member—excuse me, to the granddaughter of a United States military member.

[13] Her mom was 14 years old. She didn’t even know she was pregnant. She was playing basketball and complained of cramps and delivered the baby when the doctors thought she had appendicitis.

[14] And they called us because no one else was going to do it. So, 13 days later my partner and I were standing in front of a Texas judge at 8 o’clock in the morning before his docket started and he said, ‘‘Are you fellas gonna raise this child?’’ We said, ‘‘Yes, sir,’’ and he finalized the adoption on the spot. No rescission rights in the state of Texas.

[15] Thirteen days after that child was born, she was home in New York with two loving parents, and—and that child is 19 years old today and a freshman at John Jay College in New York. And she’s a beautiful young woman. And she would not have had a mom and a dad.

[16] So, you keep having them and we’ll keep raising them is the way we felt about it.

[17] Did she deserve a mom and a dad? Yes, she did. But she also deserved people who loved her who were going to raise her and that is what is at stake today.

[18] Our third child, the adoption agency—same one—two years later came to us. Same story. Very similar. They sought out LGBTQ parents because they knew they would adopt when others wouldn’t.

[19] So, the point is—the point is—is when you allow people to discriminate against those couples, you deprive children of good moms, dads, families who are going to love them; and when you dress it up as religious liberty, you simply sanction discrimination and deprive those children of a home that they deserve.

[20] And so we’re here because the Trump administration, as we know, has green-lighted license to discriminate laws to allow federally funded organizations—federally funded organizations—to discriminate against adoptive and foster parents who don’t share the organization’s religious beliefs and that means also LGBTQ parents and people of other religions won’t be able to adopt. Those kids are the ones that are going to lose. Hundreds of thousands of kids who are—who need foster parents, who need adoptive parents.

[21] That is the collateral damage that will ensue if we allow these discriminatory practices to occur under the guise of religious freedom.

[22] Our only goal, when providing—our only goal when providing child services should be looking out for the best interests of the kids. That’s all that matters. LGBTQ couples are not afraid of that test.

[23] Parents are parents. Good parents are good parents. Bad parents are bad parents, and it doesn’t matter what they look like, who they love.

[24] So I’ve, of course, joined my colleagues in writing the secretary of Health and Human Services opposing the South Carolina waiver allowing federally funded foster care agencies to deny services to same-sex and non-Christian couples, making clear that his agency is misusing Federal law to allow these organizations to discriminate against LGBTQ people and other people of other religions.

[25] I support Representative Kennedy’s Do No Harm Act, which is so important to clarify that religious exemption laws guaranteeing fundamental civil and legal rights is not a license to discriminate.

[26] I am also here today in support of the Every Child Deserves a Family Act so we can put an end to these bigoted restrictions once and for all.

[27] So, I want to thank you, Chairwoman Maloney, for your leadership on this issue. I want to thank my colleagues, Representative Kennedy and Representative Takano.

[28] I want to thank my colleague, Mike Kelly, for being here today. I know his beliefs are sincerely held. But I believe they are profoundly misguided and will create real damage to families like mine. But I respect him as a person of faith.

[29] You know, I would close by saying that LGBTQ people are also people of faith. One of the most frustrating misunderstandings is the notion that it is—that this is a disagreement between people of faith and people without faith.

[30] It is an act of faith to care and love for a child, and so it is because of our faith, not in spite of it, that we oppose these discriminatory measures.

[31] And we’ll keep fighting these hateful rules down in Washington, because every child deserves a home.

[32] Thank you.