Tennessee Lesbian Sues HHS After Being Rejected From Federally-Funded Foster Service

“It hurt to be turned away — twice — solely because of my identity,” Kelly Easter said in a statement.

A Tennessee woman who was rejected from a federally-funded foster care service due to her sexuality is now suing the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

The woman, Kelly Easter, filed the suit in a Washington D.C. district court last Wednesday. In the suit, she alleges that HHS, in granting federal money to services that discriminate against the LGBTQ+ community, is violating her constitutional rights “by sanctioning and enabling discrimination and favoring certain religious beliefs” NBC reports.  

Prior to filing suit, Easter had applied to become a foster parent for unaccompanied refugee children through Bethany Christian Services, the only agency in her region which is participating in the refugee adoption program. While Bethany Christian Services now allows LGBTQ+ parents to foster through its services, a policy that took effect last March, the agency’s East Tennessee office is funded by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), which forbids LGBTQ+ parents from adopting. 

Easter had previously applied unsuccessfully to become a foster parent through Bethany before the agency changed its policy regarding LGBTQ+ adoption. 

“It hurt to be turned away — twice — solely because of my identity. I’ve been a Christian since I was a little girl and my personal relationship with God is the most important thing to me,” Easter said in a statement. “I also know that LGBTQ people can have thriving families and that they are as important and deserving as any other.” 

In an email to NBC, a representative from HHS said that the department “is committed to protecting the rights of LGBTQ+ individuals and ensuring access to our programs and services.”

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