Last week, Governor Henry McMaster signed into law H. 4950, a 500 page budget bill that sneakily included a small paragraph (Paragraph 38.29) with discriminatory language that would allow state funded “faith-based” adoption agencies to turn away qualified South Carolinians seeking to care for a child in need, including LGBTQ couples, interfaith couples, single parents, married couples in which one prospective parent has previously been divorced, or other parents to whom the agency has a religious objection.

The proviso prohibits the Department of Social Services from discriminating against adoption agencies for declining to provide any service that “conflicts with … a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction of the faith-based child placing agency.”

S.C. Equality blasted the provision, arguing the proviso allows publicly funded adoption agencies to discriminate against a range of prospective parents, including same-sex couples, single mothers and LGBTQ individuals or other parents based on their own religion.

“We will not stand by and let this policy go in affect without a legal challenge in the courts. We have turned to the courts to correct the wrongs of the legislature in the past and we will do it again.” — Jeff Ayers, Executive Director

Turning away qualified families limits the pool of available stable and loving homes, making it harder for South Carolina’s most vulnerable children to find foster and adoptive placements. By hiding this provision in an appropriations bill, lawmakers slipped this by the public eye without even hearing public comments or having a proper debate on a bill that has dire consequences to youth in foster care.