Bates v. Pakseresht

Last modified 2024.02.15

  • Status Ongoing
  • Type Amicus
  • Court U.S. Court of Appeals
  • Issues Fighting Discrimination, Foster Care Discrimination, LGBTQ Equality, Trans Rights

Case Documents

The state of Oregon, as acting parent of children in the foster-care system, has a duty to ensure that the children in its care are given the best possible opportunity to grow up to be healthy, well-adjusted adults. Familial acceptance and support is critical to the health and wellbeing of LGBTQIA+ children and teenagers, who make up at least thirty percent of youth in foster care. Parental rejection of LGBTQIA+ youth is directly correlated with a number of negative outcomes, including an increased risk of depression, anxiety, suicide, drug use, and contracting HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. That’s why Oregon requires individuals seeking certification to foster or adopt children to respect, accept, and support a child’s sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.

In 2022, Oregon denied certification to a prospective adoptive parent, Jessica Bates, after she informed state officials that she would not respect, accept, and support a child’s identity if that identity conflicted with her own religious beliefs about human sexuality and gender. Bates sued the state and sought a preliminary injunction to prevent the state from enforcing its certification rule. Bates argued that the state’s denial of her application violated her rights to free speech and free exercise of religion.

The United States District Court for the District of Oregon denied Bates’ motion for a preliminary injunction. She then appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

On February 15, 2024, Americans United and the Freedom From Religion Foundation filed an amicus brief in support of the state. Our brief explained that granting the requested injunction would undermine the state’s critical interest in protecting the foster children in its care, by privileging adults’ religious beliefs over vulnerable foster children’s wellbeing. Our brief also highlighted the broader consequences of prioritizing adults’ religious beliefs over foster children’s safety. We explained that, if Bates’ request for an injunction were to be granted, it would open the door for potential foster parents to be permitted to engage in other forms of abuse and neglect in the name of religion.

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