Oregon denies adoption after woman refuses to back gender ideology, homosexuality

Bates Oregon resident Jessica Bates filed a federal lawsuit after state officials denied her adoption application because of her opposition to gender ideology. | Alliance Defending Freedom

An Oregon woman filed a federal lawsuit against the state’s Department of Human Services after she was denied the opportunity to adopt a child because she refused to express support for gender ideology and homosexuality.

The woman, Jessica Bates, filed an application to become certified to adopt a child from the Oregon foster care system. However, to obtain the certification, a person must agree to “respect, accept and support the … sexual orientation, gender identity [and] gender expression … of a child or young adult” who is placed in the home, according to the state’s policy.

Although Bates promised to love and treat any child as her own, she told the certification officer that she “would not support their lifestyle or encourage any behavior related to their sexual orientation or gender identity or expression” if it went against her religious beliefs. The certification officer asked whether she would use a child’s preferred pronouns if he or she ever identified as transgender and whether she would assist a child with transitioning his or her gender through hormone therapy. Bates said she would not. 

Because her stance did not comply with DHS regulations, her application was denied. A spokesperson for the state agency was not immediately available for comment Thursday.

Bates, who is receiving pro bono legal representation from Alliance Defending Freedom, argued in her lawsuit that this requirement infringes on her First Amendment rights to freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and freedom of religion.

“Oregon’s policy amounts to an ideological litmus test: people who hold secular or ‘progressive’ views on sexual orientation and gender identity are eligible to participate in child welfare programs, while people of faith with religiously informed views are disqualified because they don’t agree with the state’s orthodoxy,” ADF Senior Counsel Jonathan Scruggs said in a statement. 

“The government can’t exclude certain communities of faith from foster care and adoption services because the state doesn’t like their particular religious beliefs,” he said.

Bates has been raising her five biological children on her own since her husband died in a car collision, according to the lawsuit. She felt motivated to adopt children after “listening to a Christian broadcast about a man who adopted a child from foster care” and she “desires to replicate what God has done for her by opening her home to two children who need a family that they can call their own,” according to the lawsuit. 

The lawsuit states that Bates wants to adopt a pair of siblings who are under the age of 10 because her youngest child is 10 years old. It adds that “she hopes that by adopting two children, each child will be less likely to feel alone or isolated.” The lawsuit also cites verses from the Bible, which call on the faithful to care for orphans.

According to the lawsuit, this DHS regulation violates Bates’ First Amendment right to free speech because it restricts what she would tell an adoptive child. Her lawyers argue that “sharing her faith with her children” and “refrain[ing] from certain speech like neopronouns” is protected speech, under the First Amendment. 

The lawsuit further argues that associating with “certain groups like her church” and avoiding associations “with certain groups like Pride parades” are protected under the Free Speech and Freedom of Assembly clauses.

The lawsuit maintains that all of those actions are protected expressions of her religious beliefs and states that the First Amendment “forbids any law prohibiting or penalizing the free exercise of religion.” The lawsuit argues that the state “imposes special disabilities based on religious beliefs, categorically excludes persons from child welfare services based on religious beliefs [and] prefers certain religious and secular beliefs over Jessica’s religious belief” with these rules. The lawsuit also claims the rules violate the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. 

“Oregon’s policy makes a sweeping claim that all persons who hold certain religious beliefs — beliefs held by millions of Americans from diverse religious faiths — are categorically unfit to care for children,” ADF Legal Counsel Johannes Widmalm-Delphonse said in a statement. 

“That’s simply not true,” he continued. “Oregon is putting its political agenda above the needs of countless children who would be happy to grow up in a loving, Christian home like Jessica’s. We urge the court to remind the state of its constitutional and moral obligations and reaffirm Jessica’s First Amendment right to live out her faith without being penalized by the government.”

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