A Texas couple is suing for discrimination after a federally funded nonprofit told them they couldn’t foster refugee children because of their sexual orientation.
Married couple Fatma Marouf, 41, and Bryn Esplin, 33, struggled to conceive a child through IVF, and hit roadblocks when they attempted to adopt a child domestically. So the women decided to foster a refugee child, hoping to bring a young person into their safe and loving home.
But Catholic Charities of Fort Worth told them they were ineligible—because their same-sex marriage “doesn’t mirror the Holy Family.”
The organization is the only one in their area that provides refugee-fostering services, leaving Marouf and Esplin with no other options. The stunned pair reached out to the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) to see if the response was even legal.
.@LambdaLegal is suing the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services after a lesbian couple were denied the opportunity to apply to be foster parents. https://t.co/Br5r5YTej0 pic.twitter.com/gMBv4OMOF5
— Arcus Foundation (@ArcusLGBT) February 27, 2018
Shockingly Catholic Charities reached out to Marouf, director of Texas A&M University’s Immigration Rights Clinic, to see if she’d speak at an event.
“They are happy to take our skills, but our home wasn’t good enough,” Esplin, a bioethics professor at the university, told CNN.
Now, the women are suing numerous government agencies, including the Department of Health and Human Services, as well as Catholic Charities, for discrimination.
Fatma is an immigrants’ rights lawyer, deeply familiar with the trauma and difficulties experienced by refugee children. She and Bryn are able to provide the “love, stability, and support” a child so desperately needs. And they should be allowed to do so.
— Lambda Legal (@LambdaLegal) February 23, 2018
“Our clients should be able to walk into any agency and be treated equally,” said Lambda Legal attorney Jamie Gliksberg, who is representing Esplin and Marouf. “Using religion as an excuse, federal taxpayer dollars are being used to discriminate.”
Gliksberg added that the case isn’t just about anti-gay discrimination: Catholic Charities’ response could bar Jews, Muslims, or any untraditional or non-Christian family from fostering refugee youth.
The lawsuit comes less than a week after the George state Senate passed the Keep Faith in Adoption and Foster Care Act, which would allow adoption and foster-care agencies to refuse to place children with same-sex couples.