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A Catholic couple in Massachusetts claims the state has banned them from fostering children over their views on gender and sexuality.
Mike and Catherine “Kitty” Burke filed a federal lawsuit on Tuesday alleging that Massachusetts barred them from fostering children in the state because they follow the Catholic teachings on gender, sexuality, and marriage.
“After months of interviews and training, and after years of heartbreak, we were on the verge of finally becoming parents,” the couple said in a statement. “We were absolutely devastated to learn that Massachusetts would rather children sleep in the hallways of hospitals than let us welcome children in need into our home.”
The state gave just one reason for denying their foster care application, the Burkes said, namely that the couple “would not be affirming to a child who identified as LGBTQIA.”
In the denial letter from the state, which is included in the lawsuit, the state said that in order to be licensed as a foster or adoptive parent, the applicant must demonstrate “to the satisfaction of the Department” the ability to “promote the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of a child placed in his or her care, including supporting and respecting a child’s sexual orientation or gender identity.”
The foster or adoptive parent must also demonstrate they are able to “respect and make efforts to support the integrity of a child’s racial, ethnic, linguistic, cultural and religious background,” the letter says.
The couple said they were open to fostering children with significant medical, mental health, or behavioral needs, according to documents included in the lawsuit. They were also open to maintaining connections with a child’s birth family and both have good mental health themselves, according to the documents.
However, their application was still denied. The “issue of concern” was the couple’s statements around the placement of LGBT children, according to court documents.
“As faithful Catholics, the Burkes believe that all children should be loved and supported, and they would never reject a child placed in their home. They also believe that children should not undergo procedures that attempt to change their God-given sex, and they uphold Catholic beliefs about marriage and sexuality,” the lawsuit states.
With their lawsuit, the couple is seeking to have their foster parent application granted as well as ban Massachusetts from using LGBT accommodations to decline foster licenses to religious applicants.
The suit is also seeking “nominal and compensatory damages” for the Burkes.
The couple is represented by Becket Law, a religious liberty law group.
“Hundreds of children in the state’s foster care system need homes, and religious parents like Mike and Kitty Burke are ready to open their hearts and homes,” Becket Law said in a Tuesday press release on the case.
“Federal law protects the ability of religious people and organizations to foster children in need without having to forfeit their beliefs,” the law group said.
This is not the first time religion has entered the discussion around who should be allowed to adopt or foster children.
In 2021, the Supreme Court sided with a Catholic adoption agency that did not allow same-sex couples to foster children.