While No One Was Looking, Trump Made Life Harder for LGBTQ Families

The Trump administration snuck in one final attack on LGBTQ families last week, seemingly making use of the fallout from the Capitol insurrection as cover for the move.

The Department of Health and Human Services approved a new rule that unnecessarily limits the number of potential homes for foster children by rolling back an Obama-era regulation prohibiting anti-LGBTQ discrimination by the department's grantees. The change essentially means that those agencies receiving federal funding will once again be allowed to discriminate against or reject LGBTQ parents and prospective parents, free of consequences.

According to the Washington Blade, news of the rule change went public on Jan. 7, one day after pro-Donald Trump extremists, egged on by Trump himself, stormed the U.S. Capitol, threatening to hang the vice president and kill lawmakers. Trump spent the following days after that attack making incendiary comments online and in White House videos, and complaining once social media platforms finally banned him over the rhetoric.

 
 

The administration released the rule in the Federal Register this past Tuesday.

Nicole Witt, executive director of the Adoption Consultancy, which works with families to guide them through the adoption process, said this rule will be harmful to LGBTQ families in parts of the country where there are fewer options to choose from if they are rejected.

"In smaller, more homogeneous parts of the country where LGBTQ families won’t have access to an agency that will work with them, they will be denied access to government-funded services based solely on their sexual orientation," Witt said. "Furthermore, fewer children in those areas will have the opportunity to be adopted prior to aging out of the system."

Witt added that keeping children away from loving LGBTQ families, and leaving them in foster care as a result, is "unnecessarily harmful to them."

She added, "This is especially true for LGBTQ children who can be best supported by LGBTQ parents rather than by parents who adopt through a faith-based agency that practices discrimination, as those parents are less likely to support the child's identity."

The rule change comes as no surprise from the Trump administration, which has attacked the rights of LGBTQ parents for years. In 2019, the Department of Health and Human Services provided a waiver from nondiscrimination regulations to Miracle Hill Ministries in South Carolina after the governor of the state, Henry McMaster, asked for one. Miracle Hill Ministries is responsible for 15% of foster placements in South Carolina, according to NBC News.

Other agencies have been busy moving forward with similarly anti-LGBTQ rules in the final few weeks of the administration.

In December, the administration issued a rule change across nine agencies that reversed Obama-era regulations allowing clients who use federally funded social services to be made aware of their rights and referred to different services when they went to faith-based organizations. The rules made it easier for LGBTQ people to access social services more broadly, experts said.

That same month, the Department of Labor also moved forward with a rule that made it easier for federal contractors to discriminate against LGBTQ workers.

And last week, the Department of Education released a memo that said transgender students weren't shielded by federal nondiscrimination protections.

Although the Trump administration released a rule in December that would make it harder for LGBTQ people to seek asylum in the United States a federal judge ultimately blocked the rule from taking effect.

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