Recently, a British royal court denied foster care rights to a married couple because they disapprove of homosexuality. Owen and Eunice Johns, who are Pentecostal Christians, fostered children in the 1990s without trouble. But things changed after the passage of a sexual orientation non-discrimination provision in Great Britian’s Equality Act 2006: When the Johns applied in 2007, a social worker barred them because they wanted the right to teach kids that a gay lifestyle is immoral. So, they filed a legal challenge based on religious discrimination.
The Equality Act extension also prevented Christian adoption agencies from turning away gay couples in the United Kingdom, which allows civil unions but not same-sex marriage. Pope Benedict urged British Catholics last year to resist the legislation with “missionary zeal” to defend religious freedom, but nearly all of the UK’s Catholic adoption agencies chose to close their doors or break ties with the church to comply with the change in law. In the eyes of the church, Monday’s ruling is a fresh attack on its beliefs.
But if a similar law existed in the US, it may have helped protect gay foster kids like Kenneth Jones. Passed around in a system that condones foster parents’ anti-gay views, Jones routinely endured harassment at home because of his sexual orientation. (And when it comes to gay people adopting and providing foster care, American law is in a state of flux: Mississippi and Utah prevent same-sex couples from adopting, whereas state circuit courts in Arkansas and Florida recently declared similar bans unconstitutional.)
For now, religious conservatives in the US are still delaying same-sex marriage rights by claiming that gays are inadequate parents. Needless to say, those claims aren’t backed up by any significant science. But that probably won’t stop likely GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum from arguing against gay marriage and adoption, nor Newt Gingrich from pointing to the British court’s ruling as further evidence that “gay and secular fascism” is on the march.