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Families complain Vt. for refusing foster care due to opposition to transgender people

Rev. Brian Wuoti and his wife Katy, a Vermont couple, sued the state in June 2024 after officials revoked their foster care licenses because of their religious beliefs.
Rev. Brian Wuoti and his wife Katy, a Vermont couple, sued the state in June 2024 after officials revoked their foster care licenses because of their religious beliefs. | ADF

Two Christian couples are suing Vermont after state officials allegedly refuse to renew their foster care licenses because they oppose transgender ideology on religious grounds.

The Wuotis and the Gantts, both from Windham County, filed a complaint against state officials Tuesday in the United States District Court for the District of Vermont, Windham Division.

The named suspects include Christopher Winters, commissioner of the Vermont Department for Children and Families; Aryka Radke, deputy commissioner of the Division of Family Services; and Stacey Edmunds, director of Residential Licensing & Special Investigations.

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Alliance Defending Freedom legal counsel Johannes Widmalm-Delphonse, who is helping represent the families, told The Christian Post that he believes “Vermont’s policy violates constitutional rights.”

“The Supreme Court has said for decades that states cannot force citizens to say something they don’t believe in as a condition of obtaining a license or any other government benefit,” he said.

Rebecca and Bryan Gantt, a Vermont couple who sued the state in June 2024 after officials revoked their foster care license because of their religious beliefs.
Rebecca and Bryan Gantt, a Vermont couple who sued the state in June 2024 after officials revoked their foster care license because of their religious beliefs. | ADF

“And here Vermont is telling parents that they must violate their sincerely held religious beliefs just to serve with others and help vulnerable children.”

Widmalm-Delphonse also told CP that he believes “the policy hurts children in need the most,” adding that “Vermont has a duty to help children find loving homes, but instead it needs loving families and reduces the eligible group of families. who can take care of these children who may not have anywhere else to go.”

A VDCF spokesperson forwarded CP a statement from Radke, saying the department “does not comment on the details of pending litigation.”

“That said, overall, DCF takes the care and support of youth in our custody seriously, and we work to ensure that youth in foster care are placed in homes that support all aspects of what makes them who they are. This also applies to their sexual orientation and gender identity,” Radke said.

“It is worth noting that this suit was filed at the start of pride month – a time when we reflect on the achievements and ongoing struggles of the LGBTQI+ movement. The department engages with the community and continually works to be a better partner, ally and support system – rather than a barrier to the children and youth who identify as part of this community.”

Radke added that she believes requiring foster parents to affirm LGBT identity “can improve outcomes for this group of children to be on par with their heterosexual and cis-gender peers.”

“It is a human right that everyone is valued and supported, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity,” she continued. “The Family Services Division exists to serve all, and upholds that expectation, both for its staff and for the foster parents who agree to care for the youth in our custody.”

Radke further asserted, “Providing safe, affirming, accepting, and welcoming homes benefits all youth and has the power to save lives. This applies all year round and is especially emphasized for these young people during periods of pride.”

Regarding concerns about providing safe homes for LGBT youth, Widmalm-Delphonse told CP that “in any case, it is the policy of the state” that is “actually harmful.”

“I would point people to the Cass review from England, which shows that pharmacological and surgical interventions have probably caused more harm than good and that the evidence in this area is incredibly weak,” he replied.

“Children just need a loving place, someone to care for them while they solve these kinds of problems. They don’t need the state to impose its gender ideology on them.”

In 2021, the United States Supreme Court ruled unanimously Fulton vs. City of Philadelphia that a local Catholic charity could not be banned from participating in the city’s foster program because the organization refused to place children with same-sex couples.

Chief Justice John Roberts delivered the court’s opinion, writing that “the city has burdened the religious exercise of (Catholic social services) through policies that fail to meet the requirement of being neutral and generally applicable.”

“The government fails to act neutrally when it operates in a manner that is intolerant of religious beliefs or restricts practices because of their religious nature,” Roberts wrote.

“Philadelphia’s refusal to contract with CSS to provide foster care services unless it agrees to certify same-sex couples as foster parents cannot survive strict scrutiny and violates the First Amendment.”

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