Lesbian denied opportunity to foster refugee kids drops suit against Catholic bishops

Lambda Legal and Americans United are on the case:

Americans United for Separation of Church and State and Lambda Legal, together with the law firm Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP, today declared victory on behalf of Kelly Easter, an East Nashville, Tenn., woman who for more than two years had been denied the opportunity to foster refugee children through a federally funded program solely because she is a lesbian. After she filed a federal lawsuit, Easter v. HHS, the taxpayer-funded agency involved – the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) – told the federal government it no longer has a religious objection to working with a single lesbian foster parent and has allowed Easter the opportunity to provide a safe and loving home for refugee children.

Because Easter is now being allowed to participate in the program through the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), she is voluntarily dismissing her case for the time being against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and several HHS officials in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Camilla Taylor, deputy legal director for litigation at Lambda Legal: “The federally funded child welfare agency finally has allowed Kelly to apply to foster a refugee child, and she is in the process of becoming licensed. While we are glad that Kelly is now permitted to participate in a federal program and a refugee child may find a loving home with her, it is a shame that USCCB and ORR fenced her out for almost two years, and required her to file a lawsuit before determining that USCCB’s religious objections to her identity were flexible. Two years is a long time for a refugee child without a loving home. Congratulations to Kelly for overcoming discriminatory obstacles, and for her tenacity in pursuing her dream of providing a safe and loving home for a child in need.”

Rachel Laser, president and CEO of Americans United: “This is a win for religious freedom, Kelly Easter and the vulnerable refugee children she’ll now be able to help. But it’s a victory that should not have taken two years to achieve. The federal government should never allow a taxpayer-funded agency to discriminate against prospective foster parents because they don’t live according to its religious beliefs. Our laws cannot allow anyone to use their religious beliefs to harm others, and especially not vulnerable children and the commendable people like Kelly who want to help them.”

A win against the Catholic bishops is a huge deal, although I doubt these kinds of victories will happen much longer if our current Supreme Court has its way.

Kelly Easter.

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