Courts

Texas AG Ken Paxton Sues Biden to Allow LGBTQ Discrimination in Foster Care, Adoption Services

Texas AG Ken Paxton is suing the Biden Administration again.
Texas AG Ken Paxton is suing the Biden Administration again. Gabriel Aponte / Getty Images
Attorney General Ken Paxton has filed suit against President Joe Biden’s administration to allow faith-based adoption agencies to discriminate on the basis of gender identity, sexual orientation and same-sex marriage status while being a part of the state's adoption process and receiving federal money.

The action stems from the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Rule that was adopted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services during President Barack Obama’s administration. The rule barred foster care and adoption service organizations from discriminating on the basis of gender identity, sexual orientation and same-sex marriage.

“There are so many vital religious institutions in Texas and around the country that can aid in making sure foster children are protected and able to find good homes,” Paxton said in a press release on Monday. “The [Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity] Rule would force them either to adopt a radical woke agenda or surrender their mission of helping children. That’s not right. It’s a disgrace that the Biden Administration is playing politics with our foster care and adoption services, and this lawsuit aims to put our children first and to protect religious freedom.”

Paxton's office didn't respond to a request for comment. Texas filed a similar lawsuit in 2019 to strike down the rule. But a federal district court found the case moot because the Department of Health and Human Services promised not to enforce the rule and said it would later revise it.

President Donald Trump’s administration took a stab at repealing the rule, but those efforts ultimately failed. According to Paxton, the Biden Administration has been committed to enforcing the rule, which is why he filed the lawsuit on Monday.

In the lawsuit, Paxton argues that neither the state nor its Department of Family Protection Services violates the sexual orientation and gender identity rule. “They serve all foster children and are willing to work with all potential foster parents,” according to the lawsuit.

However, the state does work with various third parties that have “sincerely held religious beliefs that would prevent them from following” the rule, according to the lawsuit. If the rule is enforced, the state will have to do without federal funding or stop working with agencies that want to discriminate on the basis of gender identity, sexual orientation and same-sex marriage status.

“In either case, Plaintiff — but more importantly, Texas foster children — will be harmed,” according to the lawsuit.

If you asked Todd Hill, president of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas, lawsuits like these are a part of an attack against the LGBTQ community.

“Discrimination cannot and should not be tolerated under any circumstances,” Hill said in an emailed statement. “Unfortunately though, Republicans like Paxton continue their full-fledged assault on the LGBTQ+ community with hateful lawsuits like this. How ironic it is that a federally indicted and corrupt attorney general is using his position in an attempt to govern morality.”

Hill is referring to the seven-year-old securities fraud indictment against Paxton, as well as a whistleblower lawsuit accusing the attorney general of abuse of office. Paxton has always denied any wrongdoing. Hill said Republicans like to preach a bumper sticker slogan of being pro-life, “but when it actually comes to taking care of a life they’d rather marginalize and discriminate under the ruse of ‘religious freedom.’”

“Hate and discrimination are not the teachings of Jesus Christ, but love and compassion are,” Hill said. “LGBTQ+ individuals and couples are fully capable of providing compassionate and loving homes to abused, abandoned and neglected children in Texas and elsewhere across the nation.”

Earlier this year Paxton issued a legal opinion on transgender care. People at organizations including Yale University and the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center said Paxton’s opinion was based on outdated, debunked and mischaracterized information. But that didn’t stop Gov. Greg Abbott from directing Child Protective Services to investigate families with children receiving gender-affirming care as possible child abuse cases. The state's Supreme Court would later rule that this was an overreach of the governor and attorney general's powers.

The Washington Post reported this week that, for reasons still unknown, Paxton's office requested state data on everyone who had changed their gender on their driver's license.

All of this comes as numerous bills are filed early ahead of the state’s legislative session that aim to criminalize activities like gender-affirming care and drag shows.
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Jacob Vaughn, a former Brookhaven College journalism student, has written for the Observer since 2018, first as clubs editor. More recently, he's been in the news section as a staff writer covering City Hall, the Dallas Police Department and whatever else editors throw his way.
Contact: Jacob Vaughn

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