Gov.-elect Jeff Landry joins fight against federal protections for LGBTQ+ foster youth
Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, now the governor-elect, joined 16 other AGs who are targeting a proposed federal rule meant to give LGBTQ+ youth additional protections in foster care.
A letter from the AGs, sent Monday to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), concerns a rule the Biden administration proposed in September that requires state welfare agencies to ensure LGBTQ+ youth in their charge are protected from discrimination related to their sexual orientation or gender identity. It also requires states provide access to “clinically appropriate mental and behavioral health care supportive of their sexual orientation and gender identity.”
If adopted, state agencies would have to follow the anti-discrimination measures laid out in the proposal to maintain federal funding.
Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti drafted the letter.
“The apparent requirement that foster parents facilitate risky medical treatments for youth is a particularly problematic case in point,” the letter reads.
The Louisiana Legislature passed a ban on gender affirming health care earlier this year that is slated to go into effect Jan. 1. Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards vetoed the bill, but the majority-Republican legislature overrode it.
“The Placement Rule nonetheless appears to condition … continued funding on foster parents’ providing certain gender-affirming treatments that it and other States have permissibly banned. Or perhaps HHS would require foster parents to take children on costly out-of-state trips for medical visits and surgeries to avoid designation as “unsafe” foster providers,” the letter said.
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The attorneys general further contend the proposed rule is unconstitutional, intrudes on state authority and would violate the First Amendment and religious rights of those who provide care to foster children.
The rule would require state child welfare agencies to place children in homes, treatment centers or group homes “free of hostility, mistreatment, or abuse based on the child’s LGBTQI+ status,” which the AGs believe unjustly punishes child care providers for their views on “LGBTQI+ issues.”
“So long as HHS concludes a particular belief or practice among foster providers is harmful to children’s emotional or mental ‘well-being’ … HHS’s power to cut off funding would trigger,” the letter reads. “There is no telling where HHS might go next with this claimed power to police foster placements it deems “unsafe” based on controversial social-issue stances.”
The rule would also require foster providers operating sex-segregated facilities to place youth according to their gender identity, a provision the letter argues would upend longstanding state policy.
“Sex-segregated spaces lower the potential for harassment, voyeurism, or even violent crime,” the letter reads, seemingly arguing that LGBTQ+ children pose a unique risk to other kids. In other sex-segregated places, such as prisons, transgender people — particularly transgender women — have reported violence at the hands of their cisgender counterparts.
LGBTQ+ youth are overrepresented in foster care settings. The Human Rights Campaign estimates as many as 30% of U.S. foster youth identify as LGBTQ+. Many of these young people end up in foster care for the same reasons as straight and cis youth, like neglect or abuse, but others face being rejected or mistreated for their gender identity or sexual orientation.
A survey from the Trevor Project found 38% of transgender women, 39% of transgender men and 35% of nonbinary youth experienced homelessness as a result of parental rejection. Studies approximate 80% of transgender youth have considered suicide, and 40% report at least one suicide attempt.
Research indicates that receiving gender-affirming care — including social support such as using names and pronouns that align with an individual’s gender identity — lead to improved mental health outcomes.
In addition to the religious freedom concern, the AGs also argue such restrictions risk deterring potential care providers by adding more regulations to an already overburdened system.
In addition to Landry and Skrmetti, the letter was co-signed by attorneys general Steve Marshall of Alabama, Treg Taylor of Alaska, Tim Griffin of Arkansas, Chris Carr of Georgia, Raúl Labrador of Idaho, Todd Rokita of Indiana, Daniel Cameron of Kentucky, Lynn Fitch of Mississippi, Andrew Bailey of Missouri, Austin Knudsen of Montana, Michael Hilgers of Nebraska, Alan Wilson of South Carolina, Ken Paxton of Texas, Jason Miyares of Virginia, and West Virginia’s Patrick Morrisey.
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