Dear Secretary Azar:
This letter serves to provide comment on changes to 45 C.F.R.§§75.300 proposed by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and published in the Federal Register on November 19, 2019.
The City of Seattle is deeply committed to the civil rights of all people, including our lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, and transgender (LGBTQ) neighbors and community members. We believe that all people should be able to thrive at work, at home, and in their communities. This belief is furthered by broad local civil rights laws that forbid discrimination based on gender identity, sexual orientation, and religion, in addition to race and other protected traits.
We strongly oppose the HHS proposal to remove an existing regulation that names gender identity, sexual orientation, and religion as protected classes, because it will enable taxpayer-funded discrimination of LGBTQ individuals and religious minorities, make it harder for foster children to find homes and supportive families, and may harm LGBTQ youth, who comprise a significant percentage of children in the foster care system or experiencing homelessness.
At a time when over 400,000 youth are in foster care, we should be focused on creating more opportunities for families to adopt and raise children. LGBTQ families are present in and strengthen our communities, our places of worship and our workplaces. They also play a crucial role in getting children out of the foster care system.
Excluding LGBTQ people from adopting will create more barriers to placing children in supportive homes and significantly reduce the resources available to children and youth. It will weaken families and communities.
This rule will also be detrimental to LGBTQ youth, who are overrepresented in the foster care system and are much more likely than their straight or cisgender counterparts to experience homelessness.1 LGBTQ youth in foster care or unstable housing are often escaping violence, rejection, or abuse, and require health care and wraparound services in addition to a stable environment to call home. This rule change increases the likelihood that LGBTQ youth will be denied the care and services they need to survive and thrive.
The City of Seattle urges HHS to strike the proposed rule to eliminate protections for LGBTQ individuals. This proposal will allow HHS grant recipients, including those that provide services for HIV prevention, elder care, homelessness, and most critically, adoption and foster care placement, to prioritize their religious beliefs over the wellbeing of children in need, by refusing services to LGBTQ individuals or religious minorities. LGBTQ families and religious minorities play a critical role in providing stable, loving homes to foster children, and should be treated equally by government-funded service providers.
Jenny A. Durkan Mayor of Seattle