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Same-sex Couple Sue to Foster Refugee Children

By Ceylan Pumphrey, Esq. on February 23, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

There are many couples who want to have a child, but can't have one of their own. There are also many children who are waiting to be adopted. Seems like there's a simple solution, but it's not always that easy for couples who want a child to actually adopt one. Take for example Fatma Marouf and Bryne Esplin.

The couple was unable to have a child with alternative pregnancy methods, and decided to foster a refugee child. However, when they tried through a federally funded organization, they were denied.

The couple has sued several federal entities and the Conference of Catholic Bishops because they claim that they were denied because they're in a same-sex relationship.

What Led to the Lawsuit?

The couple states that they reached out to Catholic Charities of Fort Worth, which specializes in placing refugee children, to start the process for adopting a child. According to the complaint, during a phone interview, an employee of Catholic Charities told the couple that they "only adopt to families that 'mirror the holy family.'" They additionally claimed that when Marouf asked if their same-sex status would be an issue, she was told it would disqualify them from adopting.

The couple then found out that the charity was funded by federal grants from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Office of Refugee Resettlement. The problem with this funding was that federal law prohibits federal funding to organizations that discriminate based on sexual orientation. Thus, the couple sued claiming a violation of their Fifth Amendment rights since "the federal government was 'denying equal protection of the laws' by spending money on groups that discriminated against them." The couple is seeking injunctive relief to bar federal funding to Catholic Charities, and an order to compel Catholic Charities to offer its services to Esplin and Marouf.

Adoption can be a difficult process, both emotionally and legally. While a lawyer can't help with the emotional aspect of adoption, a legal professional can at least help with the legal aspect.

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