In 2014, a retail corporation protested a requirement regarding prescription coverage for employees. This protest claimed that religious freedom was being violated, leading to the U.S. Supreme Court to expand upon the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which grants corporations and individuals the right to refuse to abide by certain provisions if they are a violation of religious beliefs and tenets. This previous exception has now led to concerns that the rights of same-sex parents and others could be impacted in other states, including New York.
The fear of wide-spread discrimination stems from the decision to permit a foster care agency to refuse to accept clients who do not follow Christian beliefs. This decision was startling since the agency accepts federal funding. However, when the agency, Miracle Hill Ministries, refused to accept applications from non-Christian and same-sex parents, it violated the Health and Human Services mandates concerning discrimination. The state’s Department of Social Services warned the agency that it could lose funding if it persists in discriminating applicants.
The governor of South Carolina intervened and issued an executive order, asserting the rights of adoption and foster agencies to discriminate based on religious beliefs. In addition, the governor directly petitioned for the principal deputy assistant director of the HHS to allow an exemption for religious agencies. The waiver was granted based on the Hobby Lobby Supreme Court decision.
There are concerns that this waiver will lead to other adoption and foster agencies seeking to use religious beliefs as a motive to deny non-Christian and same-sex parents the rights to foster or adopt children. In a 2014 dissent, Supreme Court Justice Ginsberg expressed concerns that such provisions will lead to wide-spread discrimination. Texas has already moved to seek waivers for some of its religious agencies. New York residents who are facing difficulties in an adoption may be best served by seeking the assistance of an experienced family law attorney.