Massachusetts has banned a couple from having foster children because of their conservative Christian beliefs about marriage, sexuality and gender.
Mike and Kitty Burke filed a lawsuit against the state on August 8 for denying them the ability to parent because of their religious views.
“Mike and Kitty Burke are a Catholic couple from Massachusetts who have long wanted to be parents,” Becket Law, who represents the Burkes, said in a Press release about the case “Mike is an Iraq War veteran, Kitty is a former paraprofessional for children with special needs, and together they run a small business and make music for Mass. Unfortunately, the Burkes learned very early in their marriage who could not have children of their own. Mike and Kitty began exploring foster parenting through the state’s foster care program in hopes of caring for and eventually adopting children in need of a stable and loving home like yours.
There is currently a shortage of foster families in the state, and more than 1,500 children without foster families.
The law firm noted: “The crisis has become so extreme that the state has resorted to housing children in hospitals for weeks, and not because the children need medical attention, but because the Commonwealth has nowhere else to put them . Now more than ever, Massachusetts needs loving couples like the Burkes to take in children in need.”
The couple completed hours of training in 2022 and underwent extensive interviews and a home study to qualify for the foster program.
“Throughout this process, Mike and Kitty emphasized their willingness to welcome children from diverse backgrounds and with special needs,” Becket Law said. “They expressed an openness to fostering sibling groups, too, so that children in need could maintain those critical family ties. In every way, the Burkes were an ideal foster family.”
During interviews at home, the Burkes noticed that many of the questions they were asked focused on their Catholic views on sexual orientation, marriage and gender dysphoria. The couple insisted they would love and accept any child, regardless of their sexual orientation or “freedom with gender identity”.
“However, because Mike and Kitty said they would continue to hold their religious beliefs about gender and human sexuality, Massachusetts denied them a license to foster any children because, as the reviewer put it, “their faith does not he supports them and neither are they.”, Becket Law explained.
“Federal law protects the ability of religious individuals and organizations to take in children in need without having to renounce their beliefs. Because Massachusetts was unwilling to uphold the law, including its own Adoptive Parents’ Bill of Rights, Becket will go to court to enforce them,” the law firm said.
The 132 pages complaint requests that the court “declare that the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution require defendants to cease discriminating against plaintiffs and those who share plaintiffs’ religious beliefs on the basis of their religious beliefs, exercise, and expression” . They are also seeking attorney fees and “nominal and compensatory damages.”