A Texan lesbian couple is suing the Trump administration after they were banned from fostering refugee children for not ‘mirroring the Holy Family’.
Fatma Marouf and Bryn Esplin have begun legal proceedings against the US Health and Human Services department of the federal government and the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The pair claim that the decision of group Catholic Charities to reject their ability to foster vulnerably children violated their constitutional rights.
According to the couple, administrators of their local Catholic Charities branch (Catholic Charities Fort Worth) invited Fatma to learn more about the charity’s work in fostering refugee children.
During an interview with Fatma and Bryn, the couple were allegedly told that they would be unsuitable to foster any refugee children as they did not ‘mirror the Holy Family’ according to court documents.
The pair have been married for three years, and their lawsuit claims that the charity was aware of this prior to their interview.
In a statement issued by Lambda Legal, the couple said that they were entirely capable of fostering a child, even if they didn’t look like Jesus, Mary and Joseph.
Fatma said: “Refugee children have been through enough trauma to last a lifetime. They need love, stability, and support, which Bryn and I have in abundance.
“But in discriminating against us, the agency put their religious views of LGBT people above what is best for the kids in their care.”
Bryn added: “Being denied the opportunity to foster a child because we don’t ‘mirror the Holy Family’ — clearly code for being a same-sex couple — was hurtful and insulting to us.
“More than that, though, insisting on such a narrow, religious view of what a family must look like deprives these children of a nurturing, supportive home.”
In 2017 Texas passed a ‘religious freedom’ law that allowed state-funded adoption agencies to discriminate against couples based on religious belief.
House Bill 3859, also known as the ‘Freedom to Serve Children Act’ is similar to legislation passed in other states.
However, the couple claim that these laws do not apply to their case, as the fostering and adoption of refugee children is managed by the federal government through the Department of Health and Human Services, rather than the state of Texas.
The US Conference of Catholic Bishops, one of the defendants in the case, is one of the two main agencies that resettle refugee children on the behalf of the federal government.
In Texas, this group is represented by Catholic Charities.
Federal agency the Office of Refugee Resettlement is responsible for the funding of these local groups which receive millions of dollars nationwide from the federal government.
Fatma and Bryn’s lawsuit states that the federal government and the organisations involved in the process broke the Establishment, Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Constitution by imposing a religious belief upon them.
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Fatma and Bryn’s case will be represented by Lambda Legal, an LGBT law organization which involves the Youth in Out-of-Home Care project.
Director of the project Currey Cook said the case was not challenging the state’s requirement but was instead targeting discrimination on a federal level.
Cook said: “We are challenging federal funding to an organization that permits religiously-based discrimination.
“But while our case does not challenge the state, it goes to the heart of the issue in that equally unconstitutional law and demonstrates clearly the danger of such laws — harm to children as result of fewer homes available to them and harm to the loving families turned away.”
The case is expected to filed in Washington DC later this week.
Watch Lambda Legal’s video about Fatma and Bryn’s case below