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Lawsuit: Vermont won’t renew couples’ foster care licenses because of their religious beliefs


Vermont follows Oregon and Massachusetts in openly demanding that Christians forsake their faith and embrace LGBTQ ideology if they want to foster or adopt vulnerable children.

Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) has filed a complaint on behalf of two Vermont families claiming the state revoked their foster care licenses because of their religious convictions regarding LGBTQ issues.

Many Christians are inspired by their faith to become foster parents or to adopt children. James 1:27 calls caring for orphans and widows “religion that is pure and undefiled before God.” Pastor Brian Wuoti and his wife, Katy, and Pastor Bryan Gantt and his wife, Rebecca, were each motivated by their faith to care for orphans.

Both couples fostered and adopted children for years but were recently barred from fostering or adopting any more children because of the very faith that motivated them, according to the lawsuit filed by ADF.

The suit argues that over the last few years, Vermont’s Department for Children and Families (DCF) has updated its policies to require all prospective foster care and adoptive parents to agree to affirm a child’s sexual orientation and gender identity. This requires that parents use a child’s preferred pronouns, allow them to dress according to their gender identity, take them to pride parades, and more.

When the Wuotis attempted to renew their license in 2022, they were asked on a scale of 1 to 5 how comfortable they were with caring for an LGBTQ child. They answered a 3 because they thought that their religious beliefs could be considered unwelcoming by some, though they themselves believed they were a 5 because they could love and care for any child. When DCF contacted them about their answer, the couple explained that while they would be happy to care for an LGBTQ child, their religious beliefs prohibited them from affirming a child’s same-sex attraction or gender transition.

A DCF employee stated, “I have no doubt that you would be welcoming to a child in your home; but if you are unable to encourage and support children in their sexual and gender identity, that essentially makes you ineligible for renewal of your foster parent license.”

DCF has since refused to renew the Wuotis’ license.

The Gantts have specifically sought to care for babies who were exposed to drugs and alcohol in the womb and have done so for many years. In September 2023, DCF contacted the Gantts because a baby boy was soon to be born to a homeless woman who was addicted to drugs.

“The whole department agrees you’re the perfect home and first choice,” DCF told them.

The Gannts said they would take in the boy.

On September 8, the Gantts received an email that said their licensure renewal was contingent on them saying they would affirm a child’s gender identity.

When Bryan Gantt inquired about the email and explained that they would love and care for a child who was LGBTQ but they would not compromise their beliefs, DCF told them their license would not be renewed.

The Gantts had received outstanding feedback during their time in the system. DCF even asked them to represent DCF on “The Today Show” in 2022 to talk about the shortage of baby formula.

The Wuotis also received glowing reviews from DCF. One DCF supervisor wrote that they were “AMAZING” and she “could not pick a more wonderful foster family.”

Meanwhile DCF has been pleading to get more couples to join the foster care system as there are currently more children in foster care than there are families to take them in.

Emails and interviews from DCF state that the foster care system is in crisis.

DCF has even had to place many children in group homes, hospitals, police stations, and with unlicensed families. ADF claims in its lawsuit that DCF is putting politics above the safety of children, writing,

“Although the Wuotis and Gantts have adopted five children between them, the Department has determined they are unfit to foster or adopt any child solely due to their religiously inspired and widely held belief that girls cannot become boys or vice versa. And Vermont applies this policy categorically—whether applicants want to adopt their grandchild, provide respite care for an infant for just a few hours, or foster a child who shares all of their religious views. Vermont would prefer children have no home than to place them with families of faith with these views.”

They continue,

“This policy harms children and hinders their chance to find forever homes. It also violates the First Amendment. It requires parents to speak the State’s controversial views, while restricting parents’ ability to politely share their common-sense beliefs to any child in any context—categorically excluding disfavored viewpoints from the foster-parent pool entirely. Vermont’s regulations also target particular religious views for unequal treatment through an exemption riddled system of individualized assessments.”

This is a clear instance of the state of Vermont valuing LGBTQ ideology over the needs of children. The Wuotis and Gantts were wonderful adoptive parents willing to do what most are not, and yet DCF transparently and openly booted them from the system specifically because of their religious beliefs and rejection of the state’s beliefs.

It is important to note that this doesn’t stop them from fostering or adopting LGBTQ children — it stops them from adopting or caring for any child, even a family member.

The state demands assent to LGBTQ affirmation of any child, even if the child is not LGBTQ.

Sadly, Vermont is not the only state to deem parents with religious objections to state orthodoxy as unfit to help children. Both Oregon and Massachusetts have refused Christian parents specifically because of their refusal to affirm a hypothetical child’s chosen gender identity.

These states believe that such beliefs are so vile that people who hold them cannot be trusted to care for a child. Worse, they are willing to leave a vulnerable child with an unlicensed parent, in a group home, or alone in a hospital rather than place them with proven, loving, Christian parents.

This is blatant viewpoint and religious discrimination that is anathema to the First Amendment, and any court following the Constitution and common sense should reject it.

PHOTO: Brian Wuoti and his children. CREDIT: Alliance Defending Freedom

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