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Anti-LGBTQ Christian mom sues Oregon for rejecting her request to adopt kids
If Jessica Bates doesn't accept gay or trans identities, she shouldn't be rewarded for her bigotry.
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Here’s the headline as presented on the Christian website Charisma:
A woman wanted to adopt children but was turned away because she’s Christian? Sounds pretty bad! Rejecting a prospective parent for believing in Jesus seems short-sighted and cruel and thoughtless and…
It’s bullshit. Of course it’s bullshit. You already knew that’s not what any of this is about. Here’s the actual story.
Jessica Bates wanted to adopt a child and began the process a year ago, but the Oregon Department of Human Services rejected her application because she made it clear she would refuse to respect a child’s gender identity and sexual orientation unless that child was cis and straight.
Since caring for a child’s well-being is a fairly important prerequisite when it comes to adoption—especially for LGBTQ kids—and Bates wouldn’t be a supportive parent for gay or trans children, the state correctly denied her application.
Now she’s suing.
The lawsuit itself reads like a sob story, with lots of background about her life, as if any of it is relevant. That’s probably because the relevant facts don’t help her case. As the story goes, Bates’ husband died in an accident years ago, leaving her with five children, yet she still wants to adopt more. No doubt Bates has been through personal tragedy, but none of that is an excuse to mistreat or misgender a child. The suit, written by lawyers from the right-wing Alliance Defending Freedom, tries to spin that as Christian persecution:
Unfortunately for Jessica, she lives in a state where officials look down on those with traditional religious beliefs about human sexuality. The Oregon Department of Human Services (the Department or DHS) has promulgated a rule that persons seeking to adopt must “accept” and “support” the sexual orientation and gender identity of any child the state could place in the applicant’s home. OAR § 413-200-0308(2)(k). Under this rule, caregivers must agree to use a child’s preferred pronouns, take a child to affirming events like Pride parades, or sign the child up for dangerous pharmaceutical interventions like puberty blockers and hormone shots—no matter a child’s age, no matter whether a child actually desires these things, and no matter how deeply these requirements violate the caregiver’s religious convictions.
The law makes perfect sense. The last thing an adoptive child needs is a parent who will bring on additional suffering.
Actually, the law cited in that paragraph doesn’t say anything about “puberty blockers and hormone shots.” Here’s what it says about prospective foster parents:
Respect, accept and support the race, ethnicity, cultural identities, national origin, immigration status, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, disabilities, spiritual beliefs, and socioeconomic status, of a child or young adult in the care or custody of the Department, and provide opportunities to enhance the positive self-concept and understanding of the child or young adult’s heritage; and
Assure that all members of the household, excluding a child or young adult in the care or custody of the Department… Do not pose a risk to the safety, health, and well-being needs of a child or young adult in the care or custody of the Department…
That’s it. That’s the relevant part of the law. It says if you take in a gay or trans child, you must “respect, accept and support” them and not pose a risk to their development. It says nothing about “dangerous pharmaceutical interventions,” which have lately become a right-wing talking point promoted by lazy writers who perpetuate the myth that trans children can just walk into a doctor’s office at anytime and demand a sex change on the spot. (I don’t know what’s more implausible: the idea that kids can be approved for hormone therapy on a whim or the idea that anyone can get a doctor’s appointment without a lengthy delay.)
More importantly, Oregon officials aren’t discriminating against Christians. They’re simply refusing to place vulnerable kids in the homes of people who would make their lives worse. Putting a child in the home of a bigot, regardless of religious affiliation, wouldn’t be in anyone’s best interests.
But ADF and conservative propaganda outlets, as usual, are trying to pass this off as anti-Christian bigotry in order to deflect from what’s actually happening.
The lawsuit even (helpfully!) spells out that bigotry:
Because she will not agree to use a hypothetical child’s preferred pronouns or facilitate a hypothetical gender transition, she cannot even adopt a newborn who has no concept of, much less a desire for, these things.
They’re publicly admitting that Bates’ love for her hypothetical child is conditional, wholly dependent on that kid turning out to be cisgender and straight.
Tossing out her application is the right call on Oregon’s part. Bates says trans kids will not be respected in her home. That means she doesn’t make the cut. She’s not fit to be an adoptive parent when the state makes the call. It’s that simple. She’s like a failed athlete suing a school district because she didn’t make the varsity team even though she’s not good enough and the coaches have spelled out her myriad deficiencies.
The lawsuit offers more specifics on Bates’ situation but none of it paints her in a better light. According to the story promoted by ADF, Bates began going through the process of becoming an adoptive parent a year ago, and that included attending an in-person training program. During the relevant part of the training, the instructor explained how parents could support a child’s sexual orientation or gender identity: They could, for example, let a child “dress however they want” or take them to a PRIDE parade. Even if a child wasn’t old enough to understand their orientation or identity, parents could still put up “hate-free zone” signs or symbols to make clear that they have an inclusive and welcoming home. (A lot of public school teachers do this already!)
The training also clarified that children could go to church, but parents should avoid “forcing” kids to attend any activities (“including religious activities”) that might be similarly unsupportive of who they are.
None of that is controversial. None of that is anti-Christian. The only way you balk at any of that is if you have some deep-seated desire to harm a hypothetical gay or trans child.
And yet that desire to cause harm is right there in the lawsuit. Bates, we’re told, doesn’t think trans people even exist. She rejects the idea of transitioning, even for adults. She rejects same-sex marriage. She says she is “religiously obligated” to hold those beliefs and share them.
She’s basically an asshole who justifies her cruelty by citing Jesus.
She has every intention of raising kids who share her hateful views. She can, of course, do that with her biological children—good luck to them—but she has no right to demand that the state of Oregon give her additional kids to indoctrinate and potentially traumatize.
There have been plenty of horror stories about children who were placed in abusive Christian homes. Even if we exclude people who were obvious red flags, the emotional trauma that comes from being an LGBTQ kid in a conservative Christian home cannot be stressed enough:
Adoptees have a lot stacked against them even if they don’t have to wrestle with their sexual identity in a family that might be anti-gay. “A sense of rejection is already present for the adopted foster child. Being rejected for a fundamental part of ‘self’ cuts even deeper,” explained Kelly Crenshaw, a reverend based in Maryland who advocates for LGBTQ youth. “It’s another piece of baggage to carry through life that just makes things more complicated: Are people going to accept me? Will I be allowed to date? Do I have to hide my real self? What if my family doesn’t want me anymore?”
If Bates is itching to harm children who are LGBTQ, there are plenty of faith-based adoption agencies that’ll facilitate her request. The state of Oregon, however, should stand firm in making sure all adoptive parents meet basic standards of human decency.
(Featured image via ADF)
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