Lambda Legal Sounds Alarm Over Discriminatory Child Welfare Bill in Arizona

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April 1, 2022

Yesterday, the Arizona House passed Senate Bill 1399, already approved by the Senate, that would allow government-funded child welfare agencies to turn away prospective foster parents if their personal and religious beliefs don’t match with theirs. The bill is now headed to Governor Greg Ducey. Lambda Legal joined LGBTQ+, child welfare, and religious organizations and leaders in urging Governor Ducey to veto the bill.

Senior Counsel and Youth In Out-Of-Home Care Project Director at Lambda Legal, Currey Cook issued the following statement:

“This bill is the very antithesis of religious freedom, is harmful to children and families, and should be stopped dead in its tracks. Senate Bill 1399 is contrary to federal law as it adopts a sweeping license to discriminate of the very kind the Supreme Court of the United States declined to permit in last summer’s Fulton v. City of Philadelphia decision. In addition to allowing agencies to turn away prospective adoptive and foster parents for children and youth in need of loving homes, SB 1399 explicitly allows foster parents to ‘guide, instruct, or raise a child’ consistent with their ‘religious belief or exercise of religion’—a clear violation of constitutional protects at state and federal constitutional protections. 

“In Rogers v. HHS, our litigation in South Carolina on behalf of a married, same-sex couple who was turned away by a faith-based agency when seeking to foster, a federal judge found that a similar policy in that state was contrary to the Supreme Court’s decision in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia. Arizona takes this discriminatory policy a step further by allowing foster parents’ beliefs to trump the rights of children in foster care to freedom of religion and the rights of parents, whose children are in the temporary custody of the state, to have a say so in their child’s faith or non-participation in faith-based activities. Governor Ducey must veto SB 1399.”

On March 23, 2022, Lambda Legal and a coalition of LGBTQ+, child welfare, and religious organizations and leaders sent a letter to the Arizona House of Representatives in opposition to SB 1399 and outlined the ways that the law would hurt children and families in the state child welfare system. Read that letter here: