/ Inset: Becket Fund

Mike and Kitty Burke are suing the state of Massachusetts, alleging that the state denied their foster care license application due to their biblical beliefs on LGBTQ+ issues. The couple are Catholic and have tried for years to have children on their own but have faced numerous fertility issues and heartbreak. They applied to be foster/adoptive parents through the state of Massachusetts’s foster care system, where they underwent over 30 hours of training, home studies, and personal interviews. On paper, Mike and Kitty have a lot to recommend them. Mike is an Iraq War veteran, and Kitty is a former school paraprofessional. The couple had decided that private adoptions would be too expensive and decided to become foster parents with the hope of someday adopting. In the state of Massachusetts, as in most states in the US, adopting children through foster care is free

The couple, however, allege that they were discriminated against by the state and denied the ability to be foster parents. “Despite acknowledging many strengths with them and that they were a lovely couple who really seemed to understand foster and adoption care, ultimately, they were denied for one reason,” Will Haun, senior counsel at Becket Law, which is representing the couple, said. “As the reviewer put it, ‘Their faith is not supportive, and neither are they,’ referring to whether or not they would, in Massachusetts’ words, ‘support and affirm a child’s sexual orientation or gender identity.’” As part of the application process, the Burkes faced several interviews. Their suit claims that many of the questions had to do with their views on gender-affirming care and sexuality. Per the lawsuit, Kitty stated she did not condone gender-affirming care due to her religious beliefs and referred to it as “chemical castration.” Mike also stated that he would not consider any type of gender-affirming care for a child under 18. 

The social worker that interviewed them did recommend that the Burkes be approved with conditions “specifically around religion and LGBTQIA+ related issues.” However, the couple’s application was denied by the state earlier this year. In a statement regarding the denial, the couple wrote, “After months of interviews and training, and after years of heartbreak, we were on the verge of finally becoming parents, we were absolutely devastated to learn that Massachusetts would rather children sleep in the hallways of hospitals than let us welcome children in need into our home.” The Burkes’s statement is referring to a story in February when a 15-year-old in foster care in Massachusetts spent 40 days in the hospital because the foster care system had no placement for him. Many state foster care systems are understaffed and short on foster parents, causing many foster children to go days on end without having anywhere to stay, often sleeping in hospitals or foster care offices as they wait for placements.  

Speaking to Fox Newsthe Burkes said that their lawsuit requests prohibiting Massachusetts from using LGBTQ+ accommodations to decline foster licenses to religious applicants. “We believe the reason we were rejected is because we were very vocal in the fact that we are practicing Catholics, very traditional Catholics, and we stand firm in the church’s beliefs on traditional marriage and sexuality. And that was pretty clear in their reasoning,” Kitty said. Neither the Massachusetts Department of Child and Family or Health and Human Services has released a statement on the pending lawsuit. 

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