Bethany Christian Services, one of the country’s largest religious-based adoption agencies, announced Monday that it would begin placing children in same-sex households.
The New York Times reports that the announcement was made in an email sent to employees. “We will now offer services with the love and compassion of Jesus to the many types of families who exist in our world today,” wrote president and chief executive Chris Palusky. “We’re taking an ‘all hands on deck’ approach where all are welcome.”
The agency, which has offices in 32 states, facilitated 1,123 adoptions and 3,406 foster placements in 2019, according to the Times, and prior to Monday’s announcement had a non-official practice of referring same-sex couples to other organizations.
The announcement comes at a time when the country is divided between extending civil rights and anti-discriminatory protections to the LGBTQ+ and exempting religious groups from enforcing those protections. Last fall, the Supreme Court heard arguments in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, and is likely to deliver a landmark ruling in the case that will determine whether or not religious organizations, including adoption agencies like Bethany Christian and the Catholic Social Services (CSS), which is at the center of Fulton, are exempt from enacting anti-discriminatory protections.
Unlike CSS, Bethany Christian has been more willing to adapt to changing values and policies, according to the Times. The agency issued an inclusivity resolution in 2018 that allowed local branches to comply with contract requirements issued by the cities and states for which they provide services. According to Bethany Christian, they now have branches in 12 states that work openly with LGBTQ+ couples.
In 2007, the agency’s mission statement defined a family as a “covenant and lifelong marriage between one man and one woman” although this statement was removed in the 2018 inclusivity resolution. However, as Axios reports, the resolution does not specifically endorse same-sex unions.
Research suggests that same-sex couples are more likely to adopt children than opposite-sex couples, making them more likely candidates to work with adoption agencies. According to a report from the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law, over 20% of same-sex couples with children have adopted children, compared to only 3% of opposite-sex couples.