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Fort Worth Lesbian Couple Sues Trump Administration After Being Blocked As Foster Parents

The lawsuit argues that violated the couple’s first amendment, due process and equal protection rights

Fatma Marouf, right, and her wife, Bryn Esplin, were told they don’t qualify to foster children through a federal program because they don’t “mirror the Holy Family,” according to the lawsuit.

A Fort Worth couple is suing the federal government and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. They argue they were blocked from fostering refugee children because they're a same-sex couple.

When Bryn Esplin and her wife, Fatma Marouf, both professors at Texas A&M University, asked the local Catholic Charities chapter about becoming foster parents, they were told, according to the lawsuit, that they didn't qualify to be foster parents because they didn't "mirror the Holy Family." Esplin says they clarified that the Catholic Charities representative meant that they didn't qualify because they were a same-sex couple.

"To be turned away from even applying ... was not just disappointing to us, but it denies children the opportunity to have a loving home," Esplin said at a news conference Tuesday announcing the lawsuit.

The lawsuit argues that violated the couple's first amendment, due process and equal protection rights.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services pays the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to place unaccompanied refugee kids with foster families. The conference did not respond to requests for comment.

Religious beliefs should have no place in deciding who can or cannot apply for a government program, even if it's being administered by a religious group, says Ken Upton from the LGBT rights group Lambda Legal.

"HHS knows they couldn't say that to participate in this program you have to be a married Catholic or at least look like one to us," Upton said. "HHS could never do that. So they can't farm the grant out to the private organization, give them the taxpayer money, and then let them put this on top of it."

The lawsuit was filed in Washington, DC., and any decision would apply to federal refugee adoption programs nationwide.

Last year, Texas enacted a state law giving more leeway to bar applicants from fostering kids based on religious beliefs to organizations the state contracts to place foster kids.

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