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Massachusetts Bans Couple From Fostering Children Because of Conservative Catholic Beliefs on Marriage and Gender

Massachusetts has banned a couple from having foster children due to their conservative Christian beliefs about marriage, sexuality, and gender.

Mike and Kitty Burke filed a lawsuit against the state on August 8 for denying them the ability to foster due to their religious views.

“Mike and Kitty Burke are a Catholic couple from Massachusetts who have long wanted to become parents,” Becket Law, who is representing the Burkes, said in a press release about the case. “Mike is an Iraq war veteran, Kitty is a former paraprofessional for special needs children, and together they run a small business and perform music for Mass. Unfortunately, the Burkes learned early on in their marriage that they would not be able to have children of their own. Mike and Kitty began exploring becoming foster parents through the state’s foster care program with the hope of caring for and eventually adopting children in need of a stable, loving home like theirs.”

There is currently a shortage of foster families in the state, and over 1,500 children without foster families.

The law firm noted, “The crisis has become so extreme that the state has resorted to housing children in hospitals for weeks on end—not because the children need medical attention, but because the Commonwealth has nowhere else to put them. Now more than ever, Massachusetts needs loving couples like the Burkes to foster children in need.”

The couple completed hours of training in 2022 and underwent extensive interviews and a home study to qualify for the foster program.

“Throughout this process, Mike and Kitty emphasized their willingness to foster children from diverse backgrounds and with special needs,” Becket Law said. “They expressed their openness to fostering sibling groups, as well, so that children in need could maintain those critical family ties. In all respects, the Burkes were an ideal foster family.”

During the home interviews, the Burkes noticed that many of the questions they were being asked focused on their Catholic views regarding sexual orientation, marriage, and gender dysphoria. The couple insisted that they would love and accept any child, no matter their sexual orientation or “struggles with gender identity.”

“However, because Mike and Kitty said they would continue to hold to their religious beliefs about gender and human sexuality, Massachusetts denied them a license to foster any child because, as the reviewer put it, ‘their faith is not supportive and neither are they,'” Becket Law explained.

“Federal law protects the ability of religious people and organizations to foster children in need without having to forfeit their beliefs. Because Massachusetts was unwilling to uphold law including in its own Foster Parent Bill of Rights—Becket is going to court to enforce them,” the law firm said.”

The 132-page complaint requests that the court “Declare that the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution require Defendants to cease discriminating against Plaintiffs and those who share Plaintiffs’ religious beliefs on the basis of their religious beliefs, exercise, and expression.” They are also seeking attorney fees and “nominal and compensatory damages.”

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