A lesbian couple in South Carolina say they were discriminated against by a state-funded foster care agency, Miracle Hill Ministries, for being gay. Now, they’re going to court to challenge the federal policy that allows such discrimination to take place.
Eden Rogers and Brandy Welch are moms to two daughters, ages 7 and 10. They applied to become foster parents with Miracle Hill, but the agency denied them in April 2019. Miracle Hill is the state’s largest state-contracted foster care agency.
After Rogers and Welch filed a lawsuit against South Carolina and the Trump administration, the U.S. Department of Justice attempted to have the suit dismissed. However, a district judge has ruled that the case will go ahead after all.
“We are very excited to hear our case is going forward in court,” Rogers and Welch said in a statement. “There are many children in South Carolina that need foster homes, and we remain hopeful that couples like us can provide children a lovely home without being rejected or discriminated against.”
The agency has previously argued that it should be able to turn away potential foster parents on religious grounds. Miracle Hill requires all prospective foster parents to sign a “doctrinal statement” saying that “God’s design for marriage is the legal joining of one man and one woman in a life-long covenant relationship,” per Metro Weekly.
Miracle Hill has received the support of South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster as well as the Trump administration. The agency was able to deny Rogers and Welch’s application because the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services granted South Carolina a federal waiver of nondiscrimination rules for federally funded agencies.
In their lawsuit, Rogers and Welch are claiming that the HHS’s actions led to discrimination against them based on their sexual orientation, as well as a violation of the First Amendment of the Constitution. Meanwhile, the government claims it isn’t responsible for Miracle Hill’s discrimination.
The couple has enlisted the help of the ACLU and Lambda Legal. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court is due to decide whether foster agencies can discriminate against same-sex couples on religious grounds in an upcoming case.