On July 11, the Republican majority in the House Appropriations Committee approved an amendment to the 2019 funding bill for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, which would essentially allow child welfare placing agencies that are federally funded to discriminate against potential parents based on their sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as their religion.

California mediator Mark Baer has come forward to publicly condemn the amendment, slamming the fact that the “seemingly endless mistreatment of LGBT people is based upon a sincerely held religious belief that their sexual orientation and gender identities are preferences or choices, which is contrary to uniform findings from professional mental health, medical and scientific organizations.”

“Allowing people and organizations receiving taxpayer funds to discriminate against a segment of the population they view as immoral, based upon an immutable characteristic having nothing to do with character and integrity, couldn’t be more reprehensible,” Baer said in a statement. “While people may differ in opinion as to what is sinful and immoral, such things are always based upon actions and behaviors — not unalterable traits.”

U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt, a Republican from Alabama, introduced the amendment that essentially removes the federal government’s ability to prosecute childcare agencies that refuse to provide services for certain customers due to “sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions.” And by “certain customers,” they mean members of the LGBTQ+ community.

Aderholt said in a public statement, “Several states and localities across the country are not allowing religious organizations, such as Catholic Charities and Bethany Christian Services, to operate child welfare agencies.

The reason for this is simply because these organizations, based on religious conviction, choose not to place children with same-sex couples. The amendment I introduced seeks to prevent these governments from discriminating against child welfare providers on the basis that the provider declines to provide a service that conflicts with its sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions.”

But as far as Baer is concerned, that logic doesn’t make any sense. Baer is self-employed, has been trained in family law mediation, and is considered an advanced skill–level mediator. He has been quoted and referenced in books and law review articles in the field.

“As a mediator, when dealing with conflicts involving differing values and moral differences, it’s essential to develop mutual understanding and respect between all the parties,” Baer says. “But how do you develop mutual understanding and respect when one side views a person’s sexual orientation as a ‘sin’ and therefore insists on trying to change it? How do you develop such things when one side falsely links pedophilia to a person’s sexual orientation, when all the credible research reflects that gays are no more likely to molest children or be sexually attracted to them than are straight people?”

When contacted by L.A. Weekly for comment, Baer noted that the Trump/Pence administration is only appointing straight, white, Christian males to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“At the end of the day, those who find it nondiscriminatory sincerely believe that nobody is gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender,” Baer said. “They believe human sexuality is binary and that such things are choices and therefore not eligible for legal protection.”

So how do we fight this amendment and, on a larger scale, the prejudice against LGBTQ+ people that uses religion as a justification? Baer says that we employ myth-busting.

“You fight it by educating people so that they aren’t misinformed,” he says. “The problem is that those in most need of such education don’t want to receive it. You can’t even receive information you aren’t willing to receive and you can’t consider information you aren’t willing to consider.”

We reached out to Congresswoman Judy Chu, who represents California's 27th Congressional District, and she said, “The assertion of this amendment and its defenders that LGBTQ families are not ‘loving and caring’ is an insult to the millions of LGBTQ families around our country. If you want to place children with families, as we must, then we should not be discriminating on the basis of somebody else’s religious preference. The foster care system has benefited from bipartisan work with members [of Congress] on both sides of the aisle working together toward solutions. This type of bigotry divides us and has no place when it comes to our children.”

LA Weekly