Washington State Bans Foster Parents Over Biblical Beliefs About Gender

Washington State Bans Foster Parents Over Biblical Beliefs About Gender

Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) has filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of a Washington state couple whose foster care license wasn’t renewed by the state because of the couple’s Biblical beliefs about gender identity.

After serving as foster parents for nearly nine years, Shane and Jennifer DeGross’ foster-care license wasn’t renewed in August 2022 by the Washington State Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF).

ADF attorneys filed the lawsuit, DeGross v. Hunter, in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, Tacoma Division. The lawsuit, filed March 25, contends that DCYF’s new regulations require all foster parents to use a foster child’s inaccurate pronouns based on their perceived gender identity, not their actual sex. The regulations also require that parents take children to LGBTQ events. 

“We got into foster care because, as the Bible directs us to, to care for widows and orphans in their distress and keep oneself unstained from the world,” Shane DeGross told Fox News Digital. “There’s a huge need in the state of Washington for foster families to come alongside these children in need. So, we definitely felt compelled to take up that charge.”

Shane said he hopes that by bringing this lawsuit, the state will reverse course with its current “ideological litmus test” for foster parents to be licensed. “Of course, we’d love to have our license reinstated and be able to serve children again, but more importantly for the children to be able to have homes for children to be placed in,” he said.

“There are scores of other people that are faced with these new requirements as their relicensing comes due and they’re also going to be faced with that same moral imperative to basically have to make a choice between continuing serving children and their faith. At the end of the day, fewer families will be available to help these children in need as a result of these regulations,” Shane added. “Every child deserves a loving home and when the state/government ideology comes in front of the needs of the children, only children are harmed.”

From 2017 to 2021, Washington state’s foster care system served over 10,000 children annually. Due to a shortage of available care, children have had to sleep in hotels and, in some cases, the cars of case workers. An audit of Washington’s foster care system revealed that these “emergency placements” are “traumatic experiences for [foster] children.”

“It’s been very publicized that the state has such a shortage of homes to the point where, like in 2023, there were over 4,000 instances where kids were placed in emergency housing, like hotel rooms,” Jennifer DeGross told Fox News Digital. “So, it’s really unfortunate and disheartening when they eliminate families such as ourselves that are willing to provide a loving home.”

ADF Legal Counsel Johannes Widmalm-Delphonse said it seems that Washington state values ideology over children’s welfare.

“Washington state officials are putting their own ideological agenda ahead of children who just need a loving home,” said Widmalm-Delphonse. “Despite the DeGrosses’ faithful service as foster parents for nine years, the state disqualified them simply for having views that Washington does not like. As a federal court has already affirmed in Blais v. Hunter, this exclusion is unconstitutional—religious beliefs about human sexuality are not a legitimate or constitutional reason to categorically bar citizens from helping children. Washington is putting families like the DeGrosses to an impossible choice: speak against your faith and lie or give up the opportunity to care for hurting children. That is illegal and wrong.”

ADF is fighting similar policies in other states, including in Oregon where a single mother of five claims her Christian faith and her beliefs about gender identituy have prevented her from adopting. She is suing the state with the help of ADF on the grounds that their refusal to let her adopt is an illegal infringement of her constitutional First Amendment rights to free speech and the free exercise of religion.

Photo: Courtesy of Alliance Defending Freedom

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