All that is Wrong with the Aderholt Amendment

My mentor told me recently “Jesus. Stop reading please. Just take a break.” I often forward on videos and articles that I find that I think are worth sharing directly with them, sometimes funny, often heavy and related to current events.

What had I shared that prompted this newer response?

“House Appropriations GOP Adopt License to Discriminate Amendment - Human Rights Campaign” 

Not generally an HRC reader these days but it’s sensational headline grabbed me, and for good reason.

I work in child welfare in Oregon, I grew up in foster care in Wyoming, and I am a trans masculine non-binary person. My worlds that I am a part of professionally and personally are colliding and not at all how I wish they were.

“There’s so much bad, can you just think positively, we need that to get us through!” No. I’m not gonna give you a silver lining or an optimistic frame. I’m going to be very real with you. Things are not good. Something very bad is happening, and simultaneously plenty of distractions are happening, so before we even notice we’re almost two years into an administration that is actively and sometimes quietly taking away the things that the LGBTQ community and its allies have fought for, for years.

I use humor when possible for levity to get through. I have to actively search that out these days. And even then, it is short, fleeting moments of relief. I think of Hannah Gadsby’s Netflix special “Nannette,” taking the world by storm and the dark side of humor. The humor, cynical at best, that I use to navigate trying days in child welfare is also at the expense of what really happens after the punchline. “What do you mean DHS isn’t doing it’s job... haha” “of course they don’t have a placement, there are none... haha” not because it’s actually funny. But because we are running out of options and the reality feels far worse and devastating.

Would you believe I just was at an event presenting with colleagues on the importance of combating secondary traumatic stress in the work place? Me either. I use many of those tools to do my work and still, I’m most impacted by the daily stress of news that is tragic and reality I can no longer deny.

Representative Aderholt (R-AL) has proposed and passed in the House Appropriations committee an amendment that is described as a “license to discriminate.” This means, giving religious communities the protection to offer services for adoptive families with the ability to not provide services most notably to queer couples and families (including single or unmarried parents) based on sincerely held religious beliefs. The major uproar seems to come down to this being clearly discriminatory, this reduces the pool of an already small number of parents willing to foster and adopt, and reduces the chances of children and youth having loving families. And, I get it. Of course the first pass is this is harming prospective parents based on their sexuality or gender, or both. But I’m at a loss for the lack of uproar around how this will impact youth and young adults.

If religious orgs start (or continue) doing adoptions and foster care, in states they previously couldn’t because it was found they were discriminating against lgbtq parents, what does that say for the parents and staff they will work with and the options young people and children in foster care will have for truly loving and affirming homes.

Aderholt claims “As co-chairman of the House Coalition on Adoption, my goal was straightforward: to encourage states to include all experienced and licensed child welfare agencies so that children are placed in caring, loving homes where they can thrive. We need more support for these families and children in crisis, not less.” Right... because penalizing states who refuse to work with harmful providers who will not affirm or support gender and sexuality diverse youth and parents, will provide MORE support to children and families... not less (sarcasm). “ would require the Department of Health and Human Services to withhold 15% of federal funds for child welfare services from states and localities that discriminate against these agencies.” (

Even better! Let’s underfund something that’s already underfunded. This couldn’t possibly go wrong...

I grew up in foster care in Wyoming in a church that I saw as my (very large) family. When they discovered I was seeing a woman in the church, which confirmed and outed me as gay, they put me through 6 months of conversion therapy hell that to this day affects me. It wasn’t until I left Wyoming for Oregon and found truly affirming community, support and even a work place in child welfare, that I came out as trans and felt I was in a place I could do so, with less risk.

I felt for the first time I could really be me rather than continuing to struggle with suicidal ideation that was specific to my identity being rejected and suppressed in Wyoming. While I still struggle with SI to this day, it is drastically reduced by being accepted for who I am and being able to access the services necessary to my transition and stems from other trauma in my life at this point.

I’m increasingly upset that I don’t hear more concern from entities who should be leading the charge on these overlapping issues. It has become a back burner topic based on the leader of the time, and I’m not just talking about the current administration, I mean from the top down to the smallest local communities. When concerning issues arise like young people not getting the providers they need AND parents and providers operating under the potential legal protection to apply their personal beliefs in a professional environment, I’m sick to my stomach that more people aren’t saying something, even at the risk of their employment.

Because now, your silence in complicit. Ive heard the perspective that at least we know who not to work with, it is intended to be some sort of silver lining, but that frame opts someone out of considering who is left impacted by those organizations?

Young people. If you care at all about queer and trans people, beyond just those around you who you know and have learned in recent years to stand up for, I implore you to call your representatives and senators to shut down this amendment but more importantly to actively go after conversations that will help others understand how harmful this is.

We need to be active now, not reactive. We are in a time of increasing movement to rolling back any advancements made for queer and trans people. It is not coming fast and in broad sweeping moments... it is happening quietly, in small pieces, that chip away at the larger issue, so it is so unrecognizable the protections no longer stand. I ask for myself, for the young people I serve and the future of a nation that is falling apart: wake up.