Connect with Point of View   to get exclusive commentary and updates

Barring from Adopting – Americans with Traditional Views

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
By: Ryan Mills – nationalreview.com

Blue States Are Barring Americans with Traditional Views on Gender from Adopting. This Christian Couple Is Fighting Back

It was in early September when Vermont’s child-welfare agents reached out to Bryan and Rebecca Gantt: A baby boy was about to be born to a homeless drug addict. The state needed a foster family to care for the child, who would likely be placed up for adoption.

“The whole department agrees you’re the perfect home and first choice,” the Gantts were told by their resource coordinator, according to their account.

Bryan Gantt, a pastor at a nondenominational church, said they needed to think it over. In addition to their four biological children, the Gantts had already adopted three infants through the state’s system. And he and his wife were getting older — Bryan Gantt is 51, meaning that he’d be pushing 70 by the time this baby would graduate from high school.

After about a week of prayer, that Gantts agreed to take the boy. But as soon as the Gantts said “yes,” Vermont’s Department of Children and Families reversed course and said “no.”

Because the Gantts hold traditional and unremitting Christian views about sex and gender, the state revoked their foster-care license; they’d never be allowed to foster or adopt in Vermont again.

In early June, the Gantts joined another Christian family in Vermont in suing the state’s DCF leaders over policy changes that they say violate their First Amendment rights.

According to their lawsuit, to be foster parents or to adopt in Vermont, the state’s updated policies essentially require people of faith to set aside their religious convictions around sex and gender and to accept the state’s views. And in Vermont, that means agreeing — even in hypothetical situations — to support and affirm a child’s sexual orientation and gender expression, to use the child’s preferred pronouns even if they don’t correspond with the child’s biological sex, and to bring the child to LGBTQ-related events.

The lawsuit in Vermont is the latest in a series of legal challenges to blue-state policies, which increasingly require that prospective foster parents affirm left-wing views on treating children struggling with gender dysphoria or with their gender identity generally.

Critics say that by effectively disqualifying people with traditional religious view from being foster parents or adopting, those states — including Washington, Oregon, and Massachusetts — are reducing the number of loving homes available to struggling kids at a time when there is a dire need for more homes.

“Basically, these states are more concerned about virtue-signaling than they are about making sure that the needs of every child in these states are met,” said Johannes Widmalm-Delphones, a lawyer with Alliance Defending Freedom, which filed the Vermont suit. “And the common denominator is that all of these states have more children in state custody then they have families who are willing and able to care for them.”

Vermont’s DCF leaders did not respond to specific questions from National Review, and they said the agency doesn’t comment on specifics of pending lawsuits.

In an email, DCF deputy commissioner Aryka Radke said the intent of their policies is to “improve outcomes” for LGBTQ children in their care who tend to suffer from higher rates of substance abuse, human trafficking, and suicide than their heterosexual and “cis-gendered” peers. She added that “it is our responsibility to ensure all children and youth will reside in a home with caregivers who are committed to fully embracing and holistically affirming their support.”

Radke also called out the plaintiffs for filing the lawsuit at the start of Pride month.

In an interview with National Review, Bryan Gantt took issue with the contention that his religious convictions prohibit him from loving or supporting a child who hypothetically could one day struggle with his or her sexual orientation or gender identity.

“I can love any child. It doesn’t matter,” he said.

Gantt and his wife first reached out to DCF about fostering and adopting in April 2016. Before they were even licensed, DCF offered to place a four-month-old boy with them. According to the lawsuit, the boy was born with neonatal abstinence syndrome from exposure to opioids in the womb. The Gantts adopted him in 2019.

Since then, they’ve fostered three more children and adopted two of them, a boy and a girl — the third child was reunited with family, according to the lawsuit.

Gantt said he and his wife wanted to have more kids after their four biological children were born, but they weren’t able to. “Never was really sure why,” he said.

As a pastor, Gantt saw first-hand the damage the drug crisis had caused in his community. “And a byproduct of that is there is an overwhelming number of kids in foster care,” he said.

In addition to their desire for more kids, that Gantts’ religious beliefs also spurred them to become foster parents and to adopt, with a focus on parenting young children with drug and alcohol dependency issues.

“The Bible talks about that God is our heavenly father who has adopted us into his family, and so we wanted to reflect that in our own lives,” Gantt said.

It hasn’t always been easy, especially compared to raising their biological children who came into the world under less trying circumstances, Gantt said.

“Our little girl, she was born addicted,” he said of his adopted daughter. “My wife spent months and months and months holding her, skin to skin, with her just shaking uncontrollably.”

But while it is a big sacrifice, it is also hugely rewarding, he said.

“Every day I come home from the office,” he said, “and I’ve got three kids that come running to the door, ‘Daddy’s home, daddy’s home. Give me a hug, give me a kiss.’”

Over the years, DCF had repeatedly praised the Gantt family, according to the lawsuit.

“I hope we continue to find more families like yours,” they were told by a case worker during the initial licensing process, the lawsuit says. In 2022, they were asked to represent that state’s foster families in a Today Show segment about a shortage in baby formula.

In early September, just months after they’d finalized their third adoption, DCF reached out again about fostering the baby boy who was about to be born to a homeless mother suffering from drug addiction. The Gantts took about a week to think it through.

“We kept getting messages: ‘Have you guys decided anything yet?’” Gantt said.

At they were making up their mind, on September 8, DCF sent an email with the header: “Important Foster/Kinship Regulation Changes-Please Read.”

According to the email, from that point on eligibility for a foster-care license “is dependent on foster parents and applicants being able to support youth who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, or another diverse identity (LGBTQI+) even if the foster parents hold divergent personal opinions or beliefs.”

While they were ready to say yes to the baby, Gantt replied to the email saying they needed to have a discussion about it. A placement agent came to their home, Gantt said.

“The very first thing I said was, ‘Before we talk about anything else, just for the record, we’re saying yes to this child,’” Gantt recalled. “She immediately said, ‘Nope, I’m not going to be able to place this child with you.’”

“She knows who we are. We had worked with her at that point for over seven years. She knows I’m a pastor. She knows what I believe,” Gantt said. “But it was never ever a problem until I said, ‘We’ve got to talk about this email.’”

Despite a shortage of foster parents, which DCF has called “critical,” the agency ended up revoking the Gantts’ license over their refusal to abandon their religious beliefs, the lawsuit says.

They weren’t the only ones.

Brian and Katy Wuoti, who first became foster parents a decade ago, have adopted two half-brothers into their family. Brian Wuoti is a math teacher and is also a local pastor. Katy Wuoti homeschools their five children, including their two adopted kids.

A case worker had previously called them “AMAZING” and said that she “probably could not hand pick a more wonderful foster family,” according to the lawsuit.

But they, too, had their foster-care license revoked because of the department’s updated policy on sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression.

According to the lawsuit, Katy Wuoti struggled with gender dysphoria as a child, and she explained to a DCF staffer that she was thankful her family didn’t treat her like the opposite sex, because she eventually grew out of her discomfort with her body. While they wouldn’t force their faith on a foster child, that faith is important to her family, she explained.

“I have no doubt that you would be welcoming to a child in your home,” the staffer replied in an email, “but if you are unable to encourage and support children in their sexual and gender identity, that essentially makes you ineligible for renewal of your foster parent license.”

When asked how he would respond if one of his foster children struggled with his or her sexual orientation or gender identity, Gantt said the first thing he would say is, “I love you and will always love you. Number two, you’re my child and you will always be my child.”

“We don’t make it a secret, especially in our home, what we believe or what our faith is,” Gantt said, but he added that, “I’ve always taught my biological children, and we’re teaching our adoptive children: Look, you get to decide who you are, you get to decide what you believe in.”

“They’re the ones that get to determine the course of their life, not me,” he said.

Widmalm-Delphones, the ADF lawyer representing the Gantts and the Wuotis, said nothing has changed about his clients’ fitness to be foster parents. What has changed, he said, is that Vermont has established a “categorical requirement that parents have to agree with the state’s gender ideology just to get in the door.”

“What the department is doing is, it’s conditioning licensing on their willingness to give up their free-speech rights,” he said, “as well as burning their religious right, because it is putting them to a choice between staying true to their faith, or they have to give up their faith in order to receive their license and continue providing foster care.”

Gantt said that to abide by DCF’s updated policies, he would have to censor what he preaches about in church and what Bible verses he reads and discusses at home. “It really compels my speech, because it requires me to affirm things that I don’t believe,” he said.

Widmalm-Delphones added that Vermont’s DCF is narrowing what it considers to be an acceptable response to gender-identity struggles in children as international acceptance of medical interventions for minors is unraveling.  The U.K.’s National Health Service’s recent “Cass Report” found that studies of gender-related care for minors are typically of “poor quality,” and that the “reality is that we have no good evidence on the long-term outcomes of interventions to manage gender-related distress.”

Increasingly, Widmalm-Delphones said, “the evidence supports the Wuotis’s and the Gantts’s view, which is these children just need a place to be loved.”

In addition to Vermont, ADF is pursuing legal challenges to similar policies involving fostering and adopting children in Oregon and Washington.

While a district court ruled in favor of the state in their Oregon case, ADF has appealed the ruling. Oral arguments before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals are scheduled for later this summer.

In March, ADF filed a lawsuit on behalf of a Washington state couple whose foster-care license wasn’t renewed because they refused to agree that people can change their sex.

That comes on the heels of a 2020 ruling by a U.S. District Court judge in Washington in favor a religious couple whose request to adopt their great-granddaughter was rejected because their answers to hypothetical questions about supporting LGBTQ youth didn’t align with the state’s views.

The judge, Salvador Mendoza Jr., wrote that the state’s “regulations and policies disproportionately exclude persons who observe certain religious faiths from qualifying as foster parents based solely on speculative future conduct.”

In 2021, in a related case, Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, the Supreme Court ruled that city of Philadelphia violated the free-exercise rights of a Catholic foster-care agency by denying the agency a contract over its refusal to certify gay couples as foster parents on religious grounds.

To see this article in its entirety and to subscribe to others like it, please choose to read more.

Read More

Source: Blue States Block Adoptions by Americans with Traditional Gender Views | National Review