Lou GrowMiller: Remember the first time we saw a bear?
Gabriella GrowMiller: There was like a humongous bear.
Jamila Paksima: Like how many pounds?
Lou GrowMiller: It was probably 800 pounds. It was like a big mama bear.
Gabriella GrowMiller: Yes!
Mason GrowMiller: This… This big!
Lou GrowMiller: It was the size of like a small shed, I think.
Gabriella GrowMiller: It was so big!
JAMILA PAKSIMA: THAT’S 9½ -YEAR-OLD GABRIELLA AND HER 5-YEAR-OLD BROTHER, MASON. THEIR DAD LOU IS TALKING ABOUT A BEAR THEY SPOTTED TOGETHER NEAR THEIR HOME IN THE POCONO MOUNTAINS. A FEW DAYS LATER, THE CHILDREN’S OTHER DAD MIKE SPOTS ANOTHER ONE.
Michael GrowMiller: There is a bear right outside our door.
Mason GrowMiller: That’s a baby bear, it means the Mommy bear’s probably nearby.
Michael GrowMiller: Uh oh. Hi, Buddy.
Mason GrowMiller: Hey!
Michael GrowMiller: Oh, oh, my God.
JAMILA PAKSIMA: SINCE DAY ONE OF FOSTERING, LOU AND MIKE GROWMILLER’S LIVES HAVE BEEN A CONSTANT ADVENTURE.
Mason GrowMiller: Daddy saw a fox, right?
Michael GrowMiller: Yup.
Gabriella GrowMiller: Oh, yeah. We had a fisher cat.
Jamila Paksima: What is that?
Lou GrowMiller: It’s like a weasel that looks like a cat.
Michael GrowMiller: It’s like a black cat if you zoom in close.
Gabriella GrowMiller: But we have a black cat, so it’s a little confusing.
YVONNE LATTY: THIS IS WHAT ONE LGBTQ FOSTER FAMILY LOOKS LIKE. TWO LOVING DADS AND TWO CURIOUS KIDS. CATHOLIC SOCIAL SERVICES IS ONE OF 26 ORGANIZATIONS PLACING FOSTER CHILDREN IN HOMES THROUGHOUT PHILADELPHIA. THEY DON’T WANT TO WORK WITH PARENTS LIKE THIS. THEY SAY IT’S FOR RELIGIOUS REASONS. AND THEY HAVE THE SUPPORT OF RELIGIOUS RIGHT ORGANIZATIONS LIKE PA FAMILY COUNCIL.
Jeremy Samek: If they can find a family who’s married a man and a woman, then they’re going to do that because that’s how we find ourselves when we’re born. We have a mom and a dad. And if they can find that, and it’s not an ideal situation to be in foster care to begin with, but that’s their goal.
JAMILA PAKSIMA: THIS IS SEASON THREE OF SOUNDS LIKE HATE, A PODCAST SERIES FROM THE SOUTHERN POVERTY LAW CENTER. I’M JAMILA PAKSIMA.
YVONNE LATTY: AND I’M YVONNE LATTY. THIS SEASON WE ARE EXAMINING ATTACKS ON THE RIGHTS AND LIVES OF AMERICANS WHO TOO OFTEN HAVE DIFFICULTY BEING ACCEPTED FOR WHO THEY ARE. WE TRAVEL TO ARIZONA, FLORIDA, GEORGIA AND PENNSYLVANIA, WHERE WE WILL MEET FOLKS WHO SAY MODERN-DAY LAWS AND POLICIES CONTINUE TO HOLD THEM DOWN FROM LIVING A LIFE OF FULL POTENTIAL.
JAMILA PAKSIMA: FOR SOME PEOPLE, DISCRIMINATION AND HATE IS EXPERIENCED IN OVERT ACTIONS. OTHER TIMES, OPPRESSION IS SUBVERSIVE AND DESTRUCTIVE. THESE ARE THE STORIES WE’VE BEEN INVESTIGATING.
YVONNE LATTY: THIS IS PART ONE OF OUR STORY, FOSTERING HATE. IT’S ABOUT AN EPIC BATTLE BETWEEN THE CITY OF PHILADELPHIA AND THE RELIGIOUS RIGHT.
JAMILA PAKSIMA: AND HOW THE DISCRIMINATORY PRACTICES OF FOSTER PLACEMENT AGENCIES AND STATE LAWS ARE IMPACTING THE LIVES OF FOSTER CHILDREN AND THE RIGHTS OF PROSPECTIVE LGBTQ FOSTER PARENTS.
Scott McCoy: Can two atheists that are straight and married to each other be certified as foster parents by Catholic Social Services?
YVONNE LATTY: SCOTT MCCOY IS THE LGBTQ RIGHTS AND SPECIAL LITIGATION INTERIM DEPUTY LEGAL DIRECTOR AT THE SOUTHERN POVERTY LAW CENTER. HE SAYS CSS IS HYPOCRITICAL FOR SINGLING OUT QUEER PARENTS AND NOT ANYONE ELSE WHO DOES NOT FOLLOW THE TENETS OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH.
Scott McCoy: Can a formerly divorced person be certified as a foster parent? I don’t think the Catholic Church looks, y’know, real kindly on divorce. Do you think that Catholic Social Services should also be certifying abortion proponents as foster parents? What is it about the gays who just want to have a committed marriage, that is the straw that breaks the Catholic camel’s back?
Samantha Bannon: People sometimes think that with marriage equality that everything is fine. We have the same rights. Everything’s equal. And that’s not the case. There are lots of issues that affect the LGBT community. And I am fearful that these conservative judges are going to consistently rule against our community.
JAMILA PAKSIMA: SAMANTHA BANNON MOVED TO PHILADELPHIA FROM KENTUCKY AROUND 2010 BECAUSE SHE FELT IT WAS A MORE ACCEPTING COMMUNITY.
Samantha Bannon: I would not feel as confident as a two-mom family if I still lived in Kentucky. I live in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania, which is right outside of Philadelphia. It’s myself, my wife, Pamela, who’s a physician, and we have two girls now. They are 5 and 3. Having kids was always really important to both of us, and it was just sort of timing became right. My wife finished her residency. I was able at that point to stay home, which was important for us. And we went through fertility treatments and were able to have our daughters.
JAMILA PAKSIMA: IN 2017, SAMANTHA AND HER WIFE PAMELA, WHO WAS BY NOW WORKING FULL TIME AS A PHYSICIAN, WERE RAISING THEIR FIRST CHILD AND THEY LOVED PARENTING. SO MUCH SO, THE COUPLE FELT COMPELLED TO APPLY TO BE FOSTER PARENTS AFTER HEARING ABOUT AN INFLUX OF REFUGEE CHILDREN WHO WERE ENTERING THE FOSTER CARE SYSTEM IN THE UNITED STATES.
Samantha Bannon: We had heard that there were a group of refugee families coming into our area and as part of that group was going to be some unaccompanied minors. That sort of struck both of us, we felt that we had the time and the resources to devote to a kid that had been in that sort of horrific circumstances.
JAMILA PAKSIMA: SAMANTHA MADE AN APPOINTMENT FOR AN INFORMATIONAL MEETING FOR PROSPECTIVE PARENTS.
Samantha Bannon: This was a group appointment to hear about these placements, to gain more information. And so I signed up for that.
JAMILA PAKSIMA: THE MEETING WAS HELD IN THE PHILLY OFFICE OF BETHANY CHRISTIAN SERVICES, THE AGENCY WHO WAS HANDLING THE PLACEMENT OF REFUGEE CHILDREN.
Bethany PSA: Bethany has served unaccompanied children since 2012. Children around the world flee their homes due to war, violence, natural disasters, or persecution. Often, they are forced to leave without the accompaniment of a parent or guardian. These children seek refuge. A safe, comforting and caring place to heal, as they have suffered great trauma.
JAMILA PAKSIMA: BETHANY IS A MICHIGAN BASED EVANGELICAL FOSTER CARE AND ADOPTION AGENCY. THEY HAVE BEEN OPERATING FOR 75 YEARS WITH LOCATIONS IN 30 STATES AND THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA. THEY ARE THE LARGEST PROTESTANT ADOPTION AND FOSTER CARE AGENCY IN THE US.
Samantha Bannon: We found out that Bethany Christian Services was the only organization in our area that was handling those placements. It was right around the time of Trump’s Muslim ban. And we felt like we understood the parameters of these children wouldn’t become adoptable, and that was OK. We were looking to help in any way that we could, it didn’t matter to us where they came from. And I hadn’t really thought about our status as same-sex parents until I pulled up. I remember distinctly I parked behind the Bethany Christian Services sign, and I thought, “oh, Christian groups don’t necessarily have the best track record of working with families like ours, and I probably should have disclosed that in an initial phone call when I signed up.” So I walked into the building, signed in and said, I think I should tell you that we are a two-mom family. At that point, faces changed, the temperature in the room changed. Three of the women walked away immediately, which left me one-on-one with one of the workers who said that they did not do placements with same-sex couples, but she could give me more information on fostering with other agencies. I said to her, “Well, as you know, Bethany Christian Services is the only agency in the area that’s doing the unaccompanied minor placements,” at which point she said to me, “Oh, you know, we’re not going to be doing that, that these children have already been through enough.” And I was embarrassed in front of a room full of people who are looking at me, and I sort of said, “Thank you” and then walked out. I sort of couldn’t believe that she was saying that to me. We live in a very liberal area. We don’t encounter that kind of pushback on a regular basis. It wasn’t until I sort of got home and retold the story to my wife that I got angry about it. You know, we take parenting very seriously and we have happy kids. And to, to say that, that we were in some way knowingly harming them by our status of same-sex parents was upsetting, disturbing. I think I was sort of feeling like I should have known better, being that it was Bethany Christian Services.
JAMILA PAKSIMA: SAMANTHA’S HUNCH WAS CORRECT. BETHANY ALWAYS HAS HAD AN INTERNAL POLICY TO REFUSE TO WORK WITH SAME-SEX COUPLES. BUT THE CITY OF PHILADELPHIA’S POLICY CLEARLY STATES FOSTER PARENTS CAN BE SINGLE, MARRIED, DIVORCED, ANY GENDER OR SEXUAL ORIENTATION. FOSTER CARE AGENCIES MAY NOT DISCRIMINATE IN THE RECRUITMENT OR CERTIFICATION OF FOSTER PARENTS. IN THE EVENT OF ANY BREACH UNDER THIS CONTRACT, AT LAW, THE CITY CAN SUSPEND OR TERMINATE THIS CONTRACT. WHAT SAMANTHA DIDN’T KNOW WAS SHE COULD HAVE REPORTED HER COMPLAINT.
Samantha Bannon: I probably should have, but I didn’t think about it further. I didn’t think about it being a discrimination policy at the time. I shared my story with the director and friend, the director of the Philadelphia Family Pride, which is a family group that we are members of.
Jamila Paksima: Your family has been willing to come forward publicly. A lot of other families have not done this. Why?
Samantha Bannon: We have nothing to hide. And I think it’s important. I have two small girls at home, and we have to make it unequivocally clear, what we think is right and wrong for them.
YVONNE LATTY: BUT CATHOLIC SOCIAL SERVICES, ALSO KNOWN AS CSS, AND THE RELIGIOUS RIGHT BELIEVE EXPOSING CHILDREN TO LGBTQ COUPLES IS WRONG BECAUSE THEY DO NOT APPROVE OF GAY MARRIAGE.
Randall Wenger: They have strong convictions about what marriage is and don’t place children in homes of unmarried couples. And according to church teaching, same-sex couples can’t form a marriage. And so according to Catholic Church and then Catholic Social Services, they just don’t place children in those homes.
YVONNE LATTY: THAT’S RANDALL WENGER, THE CHIEF COUNSEL AT PENNSYLVANIA FAMILY COUNCIL’S INDEPENDENCE LAW CENTER, WHICH DEFENDS THE FREEDOM TO FREELY EXERCISE RELIGION. HE’S EXPLAINING CSS’ STAND ON MARRIAGE DURING A PUBLIC WEBINAR ON RELIGIOUS LIBERTIES IN PHILADELPHIA. ON MARCH 13, 2018, THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER REPORTED THE DISCRIMINATION LGBTQ COUPLES WERE FACING AT BETHANY AND CSS, AND THE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES OF PHILADELPHIA OPENED THEIR OWN INVESTIGATIONS.
Randall Wenger: And lo and behold, that’s what Catholic Social Services was doing. They were being Catholic and following Catholic teaching. So they were then told by someone in the city that they needed to change their ways. They needed to come along to the city’s belief on these issues.
YVONNE LATTY: TWO DAYS LATER, BOTH AGENCIES HAD THEIR FOSTER PLACEMENT LICENSES SUSPENDED. BUT WHILE THE CITY AND CSS ARGUE OVER GAY PARENTS FOSTERING, THE NUMBERS OF CHILDREN NEEDING CARE SOARS. PHILLY HAS MORE CHILDREN NEEDING FOSTER CARE THAN ANY OTHER CITY OF COMPARABLE SIZE. REPORTS SHOW 6,000 CHILDREN NEED FOSTERING AT ANY GIVEN TIME. THIS CITY FEELS LIKE A DIVIDE BETWEEN THE HAVES AND HAVE NOTS. CENTER CITY IS A TOURIST DREAM OF TOP RESTAURANTS, ART GALLERIES, SHOPPING AND HISTORICAL SITES. BUT GO NORTH TO KENSINGTON AVENUE AND YOU ARE UNDER THE L TRAIN, WHERE DAZED OPIOID ADDICTS RESEMBLE THE WALKING DEAD. SO MANY PARTS OF THE CITY ARE PLAGUED BY POVERTY AND HOPELESSNESS, AND THE BIGGEST VICTIMS OF THAT ARE THE CHILDREN. I CHECKED IN WITH EVAN THORNBURG, THE FORMER DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF PHILLY’S OFFICE OF LGBTQ AFFAIRS. SHE RAN LGBTQ TRAINING AT HER TIME IN THE OFFICE.
Evan Thornburg: Hello.
Yvonne Latty: Hey, Evan, it’s Yvonne.
Evan Thornburg: Hey, what’s going on?
YVONNE LATTY: THE LGBTQ AFFAIRS OFFICE WAS NAMED IN THE LAWSUIT, BUT EVAN SAYS THAT NO CHILDREN WERE AFFECTED BY THE CONTRACT BEING CUT.
Evan Thornburg: They were only doing about 400 foster placements. It might have even been less than that.
YVONNE LATTY: ONLY CSS WAS, THEY LOST DOLLARS. THESE AGENCIES WERE MAKING MILLIONS ON FOSTER CARE. BETHANY HAD REPORTED 1.3 MILLION IN TAXPAYER-PAID FUNDS FOR FOSTER PLACEMENTS THE YEAR BEFORE THE STORY BROKE AND CSS REPORTED $1.7 MILLION IN TAXPAYER FUNDING FROM PHILADELPHIA’S DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES FOR THEIR FOSTER PLACEMENT SERVICES.
Evan Thornburg: We simply said we would not fund it. They could have continued foster care with their own private funding and covered their funding themselves. We’ve removed funding from organizations all the time across the city. So this case was kind of stupid in that sense, that they weren’t being disallowed to foster, that they were just being not allowed to do it on city money, and that they were offered a different deal.
YVONNE LATTY: THAT DEAL WAS COMPETENCY TRAINING AND TO WORK WITH QUEER COUPLES, BUT THEY REFUSED.
Evan Thornburg: They decided to hit back with a lawsuit
JAMILA PAKSIMA: IT ALSO WAS NOT THE FIRST TIME BETHANY HAD BEEN CONFRONTED FOR THEIR DISCRIMINATORY PRACTICES. THE ACLU SUED THE STATE OF MICHIGAN IN 2017 AFTER TWO SAME-SEX COUPLES WERE TURNED DOWN BY BETHANY CHRISTIAN SERVICES AND CATHOLIC SOCIAL SERVICES THERE. MICHIGAN HAS A GROWING NUMBER OF SIMILAR CASES AND THE STATE HAS PASSED LAWS EXPLICITLY ALLOWING RELIGIOUS-BASED DISCRIMINATION. SIMILAR BILLS HAVE APPEARED IN TENNESSEE, GEORGIA, OKLAHOMA AND KANSAS.
Samantha Bannon: There are towns everywhere where Bethany Christian Services or Catholic Social Services is the only agency in town. Our community doesn’t necessarily have somewhere else that we can go to.
Jamila Paksima: Could there be a larger movement going on in the United States to prevent families like yours from growing and having children?
Samantha Bannon: That is certainly possible. There does seem to be a groundswell of anti-LGBTQ sentiment.
YVONNE LATTY: SO IN JUNE OF 2018, THE PHILLY BRANCH OF BETHANY CHANGED ITS POLICY AND AGREED TO WORK WITH LGBTQ FAMILIES AND AGREED TO COMPLY WITH THE CITY OF PHILADELPHIA’S NONDISCRIMNATION POLICY. EVAN RAN THE THREE DAYS OF COMPETENCY TRAINING.
Evan Thornburg: The competency training was, I think they did a three-hour series, and it was just basically 101. It was language that gave updated facts about LGBTQ youth specifically and LGBTQ households. And then I did with them like empathy-based activities. And then several scenarios to help them kind of break down and understand the complexity of how the LGBTQ identity could play into the process of foster care.
Yvonne Latty: And were they really receptive?
Evan Thornburg: They were great. What I have found is that the issue that we’re talking about usually lies with some sort of, like, leadership level that has ulterior motives. Everybody was very receptive. There were a lot of people who were actually super interested, because they had seen LGBTQ youth or they had seen LGBTQ parents take interest. And so they did want to know how to support them.
YVONNE LATTY: THE CITY RESTORED BETHANY’S FOSTER CARE CONTRACT, BUT CSS WASN’T INTERESTED. INSTEAD, THEY SUED THE CITY AND IT CAME TO LIGHT THAT CSS WAS EVEN REQUIRING WOULD-BE FOSTER PARENTS TO HAVE THEIR CLERGY SIGN A PASTORAL LETTER STATING THAT THE FAMILY WERE ACTIVELY RELIGIOUS.
Evan Thornburg: Catholic Social Services had been offered the same plea bargain, which was to say that all they had to do was sit through competency training and what came out in the initial case when it went to court was that they were in violation of a number of people’s rights because they were making people sign a pastoral letter saying that they would raise these children or that they would adhere to Christian values and laws, which is in violation of the First Amendment.
Stephanie Haynes: When that came up in court, I was there.
YVONNE LATTY: STEPHANIE HAYNES, THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF PHILADELPHIA FAMILY PRIDE, WORKS WITH LGBTQ FOSTER PARENTS AS A RESOURCE. THE GROUP FILED A BRIEF IN SUPPORT OF THE CITY IN THIS CASE.
Stephanie Haynes: The guy from Catholic Social Services was on the stand. And he said, “Oh, well, we also have this pastoral letter of reference that we require people.” And everybody was like, “You what?” And then when Cynthia Figueroa from DHS got up on the stand, she’s like, “We now have two problems with them, because they can’t do that either.”
JAMILA PAKSIMA: THE NAME OF THIS LAWSUIT WAS FULTON V THE CITY OF PHILADELPHIA. AND IT ARGUED THAT THE CITY’S ANTI-DISCRIMINATION POLICY DENIED CSS FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHTS OF FREE SPEECH AND FREEDOM OF RELIGiON. AND THE FACE OF THIS LAWSUIT WAS SHARONELL FULTON, A LONGTIME CATHOLIC SINGLE BLACK FOSTER PARENT, WHOSE KINDNESS AND LOVING DEMEANOR IS OBVIOUS IN THE COUNTLESS IMAGES CSS AND THEIR ATTORNEYS HAVE USED OF HER. HERE IS MS. FULTON GIVING HER FOSTER CARE PHILOSOPHY TO ABC NEWS.
Sharonell Fulton: You make ’em a pie. You kiss ’em. You tell them it’s gonna be all right. And that’s all I do.
JAMILA PAKSIMA: FULTON HAS FOSTERED OVER 35 CHILDREN, OFTEN TAKING IN THE MOST DIFFICULT PLACEMENTS AND BECAUSE OF HER 25-YEAR RELATIONSHIP WITH CSS, FULTON WOULD ONLY FOSTER THROUGH THEM AND NOT THE OTHER 26 AGENCIES THE CITY WAS WORKING WITH WHICH DID NOT DISCRIMANATE AGAINST SAME SEX COUPLES. FULTON SAYS THE CITY’S CANCELLATION OF THE CONTRACT HURT HER.
Sharonell Fulton: I couldn’t believe it. Catholic Social Services does wonderful work. And we have children that hurt.
JAMILA PAKSIMA: EVAN THORNBURG SAYS IN REALITY THERE IS NOTHING PREVENTING FULTON FROM WORKING WITH CSS.
Evan Thornburg: Just the city cannot fund their program. That’s it. There’s still an open foster care network. Children can be placed with them at any time. Their foster care just cannot be covered or funded by city money. We said that repeatedly.
YVONNE LATTY: STEPHANIE HAYNES SAYS THE LAWSUIT CAUSED CONFUSION AMONG QUEER FOSTER PARENTS WORKING WITH PHILLY FAMILY PRIDE.
Stephanie Haynes: We would have people come to our information sessions, like “I’m not sure I’m allowed to be a foster parent.” And so we had to really redouble our efforts to make sure that people knew that they were allowed. In fact, they were welcomed at many of the agencies within the city, in particular, to become foster parents.
JAMILA PAKSIMA: HERE’S SCOTT MCCOY FROM SPLC. HE SAYS THE RELIGIOUS RIGHT IS WORKING TO PULL BACK ANY ADVANCEMENT OF LGBTQ RIGHTS.
Scott McCoy: The religious right is just so consumed with this idea that they can’t possibly be forced to recognize gay marriage, that they can’t endorse the LGBTQ lifestyle, its sexual morality, all of that. And they are desperate to find ways to try and exempt themselves from these laws that protect LGBTQ people and these decisions from the highest court that say that LGBTQ people in American society must be afforded equality under the law, dignity and respect.
JAMILA PAKSIMA: THIS CASE HAS BEEN IN LITIGATION SINCE 2019. EACH TIME THE COURT VOTED IN FAVOR OF THE CITY OF PHILADELPHIA THROUGH EVERY HEARING AND MOTION, INCLUDING THE 3RD CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS. AND CATHOLIC SOCIAL SERVICES, REPRESENTED BY THE NONPROFIT BECKET FUND, ALSO COMMONLY KNOWN AS BECKET, WHICH SOLELY DEFENDS CASES AND LEADERS IN THE FIGHT FOR RELIGIOUS LIBERTY, DUG IN, APPEALING AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN UNTIL THEY GOT RIGHT WHERE THEY INTENDED TO LAND, THE UNITED STATES SUPREME COURT.
Nia Clark: Really what it says to me is we’re really not invested in improving the outcomes for all youth, just the young people that make us feel comfortable, just the parents that make us feel comfortable. And that has nothing to do with safety or permanency or well-being.
JAMILA PAKSIMA: NIA CLARK IS A FORMER FOSTER YOUTH AND A TRANS WOMAN WHO HAS USED HER TRAUMATIC EXPERIENCE IN FOSTER CARE TO TRAIN AND EDUCATE FOSTER AGENCIES AND PARENTS AROUND THE COUNTRY TO BECOME MORE LGBTQ-AFFIRMING. SHE SAYS FULTON V PHILADELPHIA HAS THE POTENTIAL TO SET A VERY DANGEROUS PRECEDENT IN SOCIAL SERVICES. AND SHE WORRIES, HOW WILL THE BEST INTEREST OF THESE CHILDREN IN FOSTER CARE BE SERVED WHEN THE BATTLE IS BETWEEN DISCRIMINATION AND RELIGIOUS RIGHTS?
Jamila Paksima: Is it a slippery slope if one agency can carve this out for themselves and say “We’re just not touching this area of foster parenting”?
Nia Clark: Yes, this is exactly how identity erasure happens. You start by just saying we’re not taking on this issue. And what you’re really saying is we’re not serving these youth. We’re going to keep young people in the system even longer. That’s really the message that’s being sent. You know, one thing I say often in training is what you allow is what will continue. When you say nothing, or when you do nothing, you have, in fact, have said something. You have done something. You’ve allowed your silence and inaction to be consent for that discrimination to continue. You are thereby complicit and in that very discrimination.
JAMILA PAKSIMA: SAMANTHA BANNON WAS FRUSTRATED, TOO, NOT JUST BY WHAT SHE EXPERIENCED AS OVERT DISCRIMINATION BUT ALSO BY DEMANDS OF CSS TO CLAIM A RIGHT TO STATE FUNDING.
Samantha Bannon: There is a tactic that’s being used to present these cases as religious freedom, they want to use city tax dollars to run afoul of their nondiscrimination policies. If they wanted to run an independent organization, they could do so. But they want to use tax dollars to enshrine discrimination.
JAMILA PAKSIMA: DO YOU REMEMBER THE GROWMILLER FAMILY WHO SPOTTED THE BROWN BEARS NEAR THEIR HOME IN THE POCONO MOUNTAINS.
Jamila Paksima: What did your dads tell you about why we were here today?
Gabriella GrowMiller: Daddy L said that you guys came to talk about our family and how is it like to have two dads, and Daddy M said, “Yeah, that’s probably what they’re going to come for.” All I say is that they adopted me, and now I’m part of their family. And I love my two dads, and I know they love me too.
JAMILA PAKSIMA: GABRIELLA AND HER BROTHER, MASON, ARE SUPERFANS OF DADDY L, LOU GROWMILLER, AND DADDY M IS MICHAEL.
Mason GrowMiller: I don’t really want to tell anybody yet, because it’s a long story.
Jamila Paksima: You don’t have time for long stories?
Mason GrowMiller: Mm-mm.
Jamila Paksima: Well, some long stories are really worth listening to. Do you feel like you have a normal life?
Mason GrowMiller: Yeah. I have a great life.
JAMILA PAKSIMA: THIS WORKING-DAD COUPLE ARE IN THEIR MID-40s. LOU IS THE SENIOR DIRECTOR OF ONE OF THE CITY’S LGBTQ-FRIENDLY FOSTER AND ADOPTION AGENCIES, AND MICHAEL WORKS IN TECH. THEY SAY THEY ARE PASSIONATE ABOUT FOSTER PARENTS RIGHTS, ESPECIALLY THOSE WHO IDENTIFY AS LGBTQ.
Lou GrowMiller: We started foster parenting classes in the fall of 2010. It was definitely a weird experience because they taught us how to communicate, how to affect the discipline. But they didn’t teach you how to raise an infant or how to change a diaper. That kind of stuff, right.
JAMILA PAKSIMA: THEIR FIRST CHILD WAS DROPPED OFF BY CITY SOCIAL WORKERS.
Lou GrowMiller: And they left and we’re like, “OK,” and we’re just holding a baby in our arms. And we’re like, “We’re doing this now.”
Mike GrowMiller: And we both work for organizations that totally supported us. And both had paternity leave, which is not always common.
Jamila Paksima: And you can get that as a foster parent?
Mike GrowMiller: Yes, you can. Which we didn’t know either. I guess it’s a family leave or FMLA.
JAMILA PAKSIMA: GABRIELLA IS THE FIRST FOSTER CHILD THEY WELCOMED. SHE ARRIVED AS A NEWBORN.
Mike GrowMiller: When she came to us, she was right from the NICU.
Lou GrowMiller: 1 month of age
Mike GrowMiller: She was withdrawing from opiates.
JAMILA PAKSIMA: AFTER 26 MONTHS, GABRIELLA WAS ADOPTED BY THE COUPLE. TODAY, SHE IS A 10-YEAR-OLD TOMBOY, WHO WRITES SONGS AND IS THE BOSS OF THE GROWMILLER’S OUTDOOR CLUBHOUSE LOCATED IN THE BACKYARD OF THEIR POCONO HOME.
Gabriella GrowMiller: We are trying to, like, buy like an outdoor carpet so we can put it here.
Mason GrowMiller: And also we are trying to buy two big bean bags.
JAMILA PAKSIMA: THAT’S 5-YEAR-OLD MASON, GABRIELLA’S BROTHER AND ASSISTANT CLUBHOUSE INTERIOR DESIGNER.
Jamila Paksima: Wow, you have big plans for this place.
JAMILA PAKSIMA: MASON JOINED THE FAMILY WHEN HE WAS A 27 MONTHS OLD. THE TODDLER HAD BEEN REMOVED FROM HIS BIRTH MOTHER FOR NEGLECT, ACCORDING TO THE GROWMILLERS.
Mike GrowMiller: So the first full day of him being with us, we were at the ER to have abscesses drained on him. And I think he was in pain, and I think that’s how he bonded with us. Like, we immediately fixed that for him.
YVONNE LATTY: FAST FORWARD 10 YEARS. THE GROWMILLER FAMILY HAVE ADOPTED TWO OF THREE CHILDREN THEY FOSTERED. AND DURING THIS TIME, THE NUMBERS OF LGBTQ FOSTER YOUTH BEGAN TO SURGE IN PHILADELPHIA.
Lou GrowMiller: We saw a lot of teenagers identifying as LGBTQ more and more at a younger age because of the “Will and Grace” and every other show that was on TV. Because of that, a lot of LGBTQ teens were entering the foster care system and a lot of the foster parents weren’t trained or prepared to deal with young adults or teenagers that identified within that community. And so it became a huge push from the county, the city of Philadelphia DHS, to locate and recruit specific foster parents who would be interested in taking LGBTQ kids as well as to train LGBTQ foster parents.
YVONNE LATTY: BECAUSE OF THE NEED FOR AFFIRMING FOSTER PARENTS, THE GROWMILLER’S HAVE BEEN OUT THERE PUBLICLY TELLING THEIR STORY TO CHANGE RUSTY ATTITUDES AND QUESTIONING HEARTS AND TO HOPEFULLY FIND MORE LIKE-MINDED FOSTER PARENTS. ACROSS THE NATION, SPLC, ACLU AND OVER 1000 ALLIES SUBMITTED FRIENDS OF THE COURT BRIEFS AND STATEMENTS IN ANTICIPATION OF THE COMING HIGH COURT LITIGATION.
Lou GrowMiller: The worst case is that they will deny LGBTQ people the opportunity to be foster parents. And kids will not have a safe place to go and they could be running away. They could be another homeless statistic, and no one know will know where they’re at. And they already had one person disown them or hurt them. And you just need to find a safe place for these kids.
YVONNE LATTY: ELEVEN STATES, INCLUDING NORTH DAKOTA, SOUTH DAKOTA, KANSAS, OKLAHOMA, TEXAS, MISSISSIPPI, ALABAMA, TENNESSEE, SOUTH CAROLINA, VIRGINIA AND MICHIGAN PERMIT STATE-FUNDED AGENCIES TO LEGALLY DISCRIMINATE AGAINST LGBTQ PEOPLE IF DOING SO IS IN CONFLICT WITH THEIR RELIGIOUS BELIEFS. EIGHT OF THE ELEVEN STATES ON THIS LIST PASSED THESE BILLS WITHIN THE PAST FOUR YEARS. THE CULTURE WAR AGAINST LGBTQ FAMILIES IS REAL. THE SPLC DESIGNATED HATE GROUP, THE FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL IS HEADED BY TONY PERKINS. THEY BELIEVE THE “LGBTQ COMMUNITY IS A THREAT TO AMERICAN SOCIETY.”
Family Research Council PSA: We believe sexuality is a gift and a responsibility. One that can produce children. Husbands and wives then nurture them to maturity, passing on values. This means saying no to promiscuity and homosexuality.
YVONNE LATTY: THE 45TH COMMANDER IN CHIEF AGREED.
News anchor: The Trump administration has begun denying visas to unmarried same-sex partners of U.N. diplomats.
YVONNE LATTY: AS DO MEMBERS OF THE SUPREME COURT
News anchor: Justice Anthony Kennedy, just three years after writing the decision that cleared the right for gay marriage nationwide, today coming down in favor of a baker in Colorado who refused to make a custom wedding cake for a same-sex couple. But the decision was narrow, it only applies to the baker in this case, and may not affect future cases.
Lou GrowMiller: If one population is gonna be denied something, right? We’ve already denied a cake and now potentially could be denied to be foster parents. And so I look at my family and realize that if we were 10 years late, there’s a chance that we could not have had this family we have now and future LGBTQ people who may want to have a family just like ours may be denied.
Mike GrowMiller: If the Supreme Court rules in favor, it definitely highlights the path that that court’s going to go with future cases. And it may just this time, it’s about gay people wanting to foster. Next time it could be about something else.
Jamila Paksima: In the last couple of years under the Trump administration, there has been a lot of undoing of progress when it comes to LGBTQ rights.
Mike GrowMiller: That is what the base of all of this fear is, to not just foster agencies or city contracts. What other things can they start chipping away at?
Lou GrowMiller: And it goes back to marriage equality. You know, could that ever become overturned as well? Like just my family being is at risk potentially.
Mike GrowMiller: There’s a pendulum swing for progress and Trump and this administration is a result of the swinging back. And we kept thinking, wow, we’ve hit a bottom. This is a scary point, it can’t get scarier. And it did. And it did. And I remember on Election Day when they called for — I’m going to start crying — when they called for Biden, it just felt like there was finally another light at the end of the tunnel. It’s been scary.
Lou GrowMiller: We cried all afternoon, and our kids were like, why are you crying? And we’re like, Biden won. He got the votes and they’re like, “What do you mean?” And we just had to hug them.
News anchor: A dispute involving Philadelphia’s Catholic Social Services and the city’s foster care system, will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court
YVONNE LATTY: A MONTH AND A HALF PRIOR TO THE SUPREME COURT HEARING, OF FULTON VS. PHILADELPHIA A MAJOR SHAKE-UP IN THE COURT OCCURRED.
Lester Holt: Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has died at the age of 87. Just weeks before the start of the court’s fall session and in the shadow of a presidential election now just 45 days away. Battle lines over the court’s future already being drawn.
YVONNE LATTY: THE NATION’S LGBTQ CHAMPION OF LEGAL RIGHTS FOR “REPRESENTATION FOR ALL” DIES.
Donald Trump: Today it is my honor to nominate one of our nation’s most brilliant and gifted legal minds to the Supreme Court, Judge Amy Coney Barrett.
YVONNE LATTY: ALL THIS LITIGATION TAKES MONEY. A KEY REPUBLICAN BACKER WORKING BEHIND THE SCENES TO SUPPORT FORMER PRESIDENT TRUMP AND HIS SUPREME COURT APPOINTMENTS IS LEONARD LEO. LEO IS THE FORMER HEAD OF THE FEDERALIST SOCIETY FOR LAW AND PUBLIC POLICY STUDIES AND, HE PUSHES AN ULTRA CONSERVATIVE STAND AGAINST LGBTQ INCLUSION POLICIES.
Heidi Schlump: I know he’s been involved in the nominations and shepherding through to confirmation at least five Supreme Court justices. So John Roberts, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and most recently, Amy Coney Barrett. So you’ll notice that all five of those are Catholics.
YVONNE LATTY: HEIDI SCHLUMP IS THE EXECUTIVE EDITOR OF THE NATIONAL CATHOLIC REPORTER, AN INDEPENDENT CATHOLIC NEWSPAPER.
Yvonne Latty: What are some of the things he hopes to accomplish when it comes to conservative issues?
Heidi Schlump: You know, I’d like to think they have good intentions and that they just see the directive of our faith differently than progressive Catholics might see it. But I do think the fact that they all tend to be very wealthy individuals means that it looks like they’re also trying to protect their own financial and economic standing, as well as being truly convinced of the rightness of their positions on social issues such as abortion or gay marriage.
YVONNE LATTY: BARRETT WAS APPOINTED EIGHT DAYS BEFORE THE FULTON V. CITY OF PHILADELPHIA SUPREME COURT HEARING WHICH WAS HELD ON OCTOBER 27, 2020.
Senate vote: On this vote, the yeas are 52. The nays are 48. The nomination of Amy Coney Barrett of Indiana, to be an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, is confirmed!
YVONNE LATTY: AND FOR THE KICKER, LEONARD LEO ALSO HAPPENS TO BE A MEMBER OF BECKET’S BOARD OF DIRECTORS. THE SAME ORGANIZATION WHICH, PRO BONO, FIGHTS RELIGIOUS-RIGHTS CASES AND REPRESENTED CSS IN FULTON VS. THE CITY OF PHILADELPHIA.
Heidi Schlump: Leo is on the board of Becket law, and he’s also been very involved with them over the years. He’s been given their top award and you see a lot of overlap with him and a number of other people who are involved with Becket.
Yvonne Latty: How do you think the Supreme Court will rule on future cases involving same-sex couples?
Heidi Schlump: Well, I’d like to say I’m optimistic that the right to marry and other rights for LGBTQ people will be confirmed by future decisions. I’m not feeling super optimistic right now. I think the court has been sufficiently filled with a certain kind of judge and especially a certain kind of right-wing Catholic justice that some of those rights might be in jeopardy.
YVONNE LATTY: BECKET LAW WOULD NOT RESPOND TO A REQUEST FOR COMMENT.
Justice Roberts: We will hear argument this morning in case number 19, 123, Fulton v. City of Philadelphia.
YVONNE LATTY: JUSTICE BREYER CHALLENGED CSS’S ATTORNEY, LORI WINDHAM, OF BECKET.
Justice Breyer: All they want you to do is evaluate this couple irrespective of same or different sex. What is your religious objection to that?
Lori Windham: The head of Catholic Social Services testified that certifying a home of a same-sex couple would be in violation of that religious belief that a home study is essentially a validation of the relationships in the home.
YVONNE LATTY: IN SHORT, CATHOLIC SOCIAL SERVICES WAS FIRM. THEY WILL NOT CONSIDER ASSESSING A FAMILY OR CERTIFY A HOME STUDY OF A SAME-SEX COUPLE. IT WOULD BE AN IMPOSSIBLE ENDORSEMENT BECAUSE IT VIOLATES THEIR RELIGIOUS BELIEFS. UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA PROFESSOR OF LAW AND RELIGIOUS LIBERTY DOUGLAS LAYCOCK SAYS THIS IS ALL ABOUT WHETHER CSS CAN GET STATE FUNDING AND STILL USE THE CATHOLIC DEFINITION OF WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A FAMILY AS A FACTOR IN REQUIREMENT FOR FOSTER HOME SELECTION.
Douglas Laycock: The court wound up deciding this case on a discrimination theory. and they said it doesn’t matter that this is part of a city contract, the city cannot discriminate against religion in regulating and it cannot discriminate against religion in contracting protecting same-sex couples, the LGBT community, that that’s important. But it’s not always an automatically a compelling government interest. And because you reserve the right to make exceptions here, you haven’t really treated it as though you thought it was compelling yourself.
YVONNE LATTY: ON JUNE 17, 2021, IN A STUNNING UNANIMOUS VOTE, THE SUPREME COURT RULED ON FULTON V. PHILADELPHIA IN FAVOR OF CATHOLIC SOCIAL SERVICES, CLAIMING THE CITY OF PHILADELPHIA, WAS IN BREACH OF CONTRACT.
JAMILA PAKSIMA: IN RESPONSE, CITY OF PHILADELPHIA SOLICITOR DIANA CORTES ISSUED THIS STATEMENT:
Today’s decision is a difficult and disappointing setback for foster care youth and the foster parents who work so hard to support them with disturbing consequences for other government programs and services.
YVONNE LATTY: STEPHANIE HAYNES OF PHILLY FAMILY PRIDE WAS RELIEVED BY THE RULING:
Stephanie Haynes: We were absolutely relieved that the decision only applied to this specific contract and are very hopeful that the city will be able to address the concerns the court had in the contract for the future, both their contract with Catholic Social Services and with other groups. For us, this case was first and foremost about kids. And so we want to just keep working as hard as we can to make sure that there are loving, affirming homes for the kids out there.
YVONNE LATTY: THE RULING AVOIDED TACKLING THE MAIN TARGET, THE QUESTION OF RELIGIOUS FREEDOM AND IF THE GOVERNMENT VIOLATED THE FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHT OF A RELIGIOUS AGENCY. BUT WHAT MANY EXPERTS SAY WAS REALLY AT STAKE HERE WAS AN ATTEMPT TO REVISIT A 1990 CASE, EMPLOYMENT V SMITH, WHICH IF OVERTURNED WOULD PUT THE RIGHTS OF LGBTQ PEOPLE AT RISK. BIG RISK. ALL PROTECTIONS AND RIGHTS UNDER THE LAW EVEN GAY MARRIAGE WOULD HAVE A PATH FOR BEING UNDONE.
Scott McCoy: If Smith had been overturned, that would have meant anywhere in the country that a religious organization came into conflict with any nondiscrimination ordinance that protects LGBTQ people, they would have had a sword to try and strike at the heart of that nondiscrimination ordinance and essentially argue that they should be exempt from it.
YVONNE LATTY: THAT’S SCOTT MCCOY AGAIN. BUT BEFORE WE CONTINUE THERE IS ONE IMPORTANT THING TO NOTE.
Scott McCoy: Smith is still in place.
YVONNE LATTY: SO LET’S TALK ABOUT THE SMITH CASE. IN A NUTSHELL, TWO MEMBERS OF A NATIVE AMERICAN CHURCH INGESTED PEYOTE DURING A RELIGIOUS CEREMONY AND WERE THEN FIRED FROM THEIR DRUG COUNSELING JOB AND BARRED FROM GETTING UNEMPLOYMENT. PEYOTE CONTAINS MESCALINE, WHICH WAS ILLEGAL IN OREGON WHERE THEY WORKED. SO EVEN THOUGH IT WAS PART OF THEIR RELIGION, THERE WAS NO WORKPLACE EXCEPTIONS. THIS CASE, TODAY, STILL HOLDS THE PRECEDENT FOR NOT LETTING RELIGIOUS BELIEFS OR PRACTICES BE CLAIMED AS A “RELIGIOUS RIGHT” OR A WAY TO NOT FOLLOW THE LAWS. PHILADELPHIA V FULTON IS ONE OF MANY ATTEMPTS BY THE RELIGIOUS RIGHT TO SMASH IT. BUT IT DIDN’T WORK BECAUSE ALTHOUGH THE SUPREME COURT RULED IN FAVOR OF CATHOLIC SOCIAL SERVICES, THEY PUNTED.
Scott McCoy: Why the Supreme Court did not decide to revisit this Smith decision in this case is because this was just a weird kind of case that involved a particular contractual provision in the contract between the city of Philadelphia and CSS. And it gave them a little bit of an off ramp to, like, avoid this massive legal, philosophical question of when nondiscrimination ordinances come into conflict with religious exercise, how do we figure out who wins? Right?
YVONNE LATTY: AND IN THE PHILLY CASE, FOCUSING ON THE CONTRACT WAS THE PUNT. THE RULING SAYS PHILLY COULD JUST MAKE AN EXCEPTION.
Yvonne Latty: So this isn’t a win for Philadelphia, but it’s a win for the bigger issue of protection for LGBTQ rights?
Scott McCoy: I think Fulton is a bad decision because it practically allows a situation where Catholic Social Services is allowed to discriminate against LGBTQ couples that are married.
YVONNE LATTY: SCOTT SAYS IT JUST DOESN’T MAKE ANY SENSE.
Scott McCoy: If you are a single queer person, Catholic Social Services will certify you to be a foster parent, and you can be a single queer person that has a different sex partner every night of the year, and you still can have a foster kid. But if you are a monogamous same-sex relationship marriage, you don’t get a foster kid. It’s insane.
YVONNE LATTY: BUT SCOTT SAYS THIS IS JUST THE BEGINNING OF THE CULTURE WAR THAT HAS THE DESTRUCTION OF LGBTQ RIGHTS FRONT AND CENTER BECAUSE THE RELIGIOUS RIGHT NOW HAS THE CONSERVATIVE VOTES IN THE SUPREME COURT TO FIGHT.
Scott McCoy: I think the Fulton case is just another front in the culture war, the religious right has seen the Supreme Court slowly but surely chip away at what the conservative viewpoint is, is morality, right?
YVONNE LATTY: DRIVING WEDGES BETWEEN THE QUEER COMMUNITY IS ANOTHER TACTIC IN THE CULTURE WAR. WITH GREATER ACCEPTANCE OF LGB PEOPLE AND COURT’S RULING FOR THEIR PROTECTIONS AND RIGHTS UNDER THE LAW IT’S HARDER TO TARGET THEM, BUT TRANS PEOPLE ARE NOT AS FAMILIAR TO THE MAINSTREAM.
Scott McCoy: And so the religious right is using that as an opportunity now in this moment to try and score victories in this culture war by focusing on and targeting the transgender community. And the answer for us is to hang together. If we don’t hang together, we can separate. As time goes by and as people in America become more familiar with what it is to be transgender, as they come to know transgender people in their lives and their families these attacks on the transgender community will hopefully become as ineffective as the previous attacks on LGB people were earlier in the movement.
YVONNE LATTY: BUT MEANWHILE TRANS VIOLENCE IS SOARING AND SO ARE LAWS DESIGNED TO HURT THEIR COMMUNITY.
Scott McCoy: And that’s why you see these laws in conservative state legislatures focused on denying trans youth health care and on denying mostly trans girls and women the ability to participate in sports with teams that are consistent with their gender identity. That will continue, and we’ll continue to fight there.
YVONNE LATTY: THE BATTLE IS FAR FROM OVER. …THERE ARE PETITIONS CURRENTLY PENDING BEFORE THE SUPREME COURT REQUESTING TO OVERTURN SMITH IN 2022.
Lou GrowMiller: I love my family and you know, it’s a cool thing you’ll find out — there’s four GrowMillers in the whole world.
JAMILA PAKSIMA: ALL OVER PHILADELPHIA, THERE HAVE BEEN LARGE POSTERS DISPLAYED WITH THE GROWMILLER FAMILY BEAMING WITH JOY, PROMOTING FOSTER PARENTING.
Mike GrowMiller: We took our kids into the Christmas village of Philadelphia City Hall, and we went for a walk and we walked right by a bus stop with our big picture of our family. So our kids, thought they were celebrities, which was, you know, we got brownie points for that.
Lou GrowMiller: We’ve helped the DHS be like a poster child, per se, of foster parenting in the LGBTQ world will be a part of the marketing campaign. I’ve done speaking engagements with Philadelphia Family Pride to interested foster parents to talk about our experience and to really let them know that anybody can do it. If you have a heart and a home, you could be a foster parent. Yes, you learn about yourself, and there’s days it’s going to be challenging.
Jamila Paksima: And is the recruiting working, is there an increase of LGBTQ foster parents now?
Lou GrowMiller: I think so, yeah. At least we’ve seen it from my organization, and I’ve seen more and more people in the crowd when I go to talk about my foster care experience to other LGBTQ folk.
JAMILA PAKSIMA: LOU SAYS 10% OF THE FAMILIES WORKING WITH HIS ORGANIZATION’S FOSTER AGENCY ARE LGBTQ. AND, WHILE THAT NUMBER IS INCREASING, IT IS NOT ENOUGH TO FILL THE NEED IN THE CITY OF PHILADELPHIA.
Lou GrowMiller: Part of our contract that we get through the department services says that we should be welcoming and open to recruit and certify LGBTQ foster parents.
JAMILA PAKSIMA: IT’S THE SAME CONTRACT THAT WAS IN QUESTION IN THE SUPREME COURT CASE OF FULTON V PHILADELPHIA. LOU BELIEVES BY REFUSING TO COMPLY WITH THE CITY’S NONDISCRIMINATION POLICY, AGENCIES LIKE CATHOLIC SOCIAL SERVICES WILL CAUSE A LOT OF HARM.
Lou GrowMiller: My fear is that even though recruitment is going well, the word “well” is hard to quantify. Overall, there’s a shortage of foster homes in the country, right, in Philadelphia specifically as well. And so by refusing a certain population who are willing to open up their home to take one or two or a sibling group of foster kids in, is not a good move. There are LGBTQ folk who still are really religious. And they would naturally probably go to an organization that has a religious affiliation to it.
Jamila Paksima: How do you explain hate in America to your children and to be prepared for it?
Mike GrowMiller: We try to bring up and respond to that naturally. And one of the first ones was first grade when Gabriella came home about Martin Luther King. And that was a conversation about hate. And where does hate come from? And the fear of somebody different or not understanding someone is the root of hate. That was the first real conversation we had about why someone was killed, you know, why, why does being of color matter? Why would someone hate that? I think I’m a good dad. Felt like I got here because that’s what was supposed to happen. I’m like living my destiny as a parent. Since the beginning, Lou and I felt like we, we found what we were here to do was to give these kids a second chance. A lot of kids don’t get a second chance.
JAMILA PAKSIMA: PART OF THE DREAM WAS A FAMILY POCONO COUNTRY HOUSE FOR THE GROWMILLERS. THEY BOUGHT THIS HOME WITH A PORTION OF THE MONEY THEY RECEIVED FOR ADOPTING FOSTER KIDS, AND THE STIPEND IS MEANT TO BE SAVED FOR THE CHILDREN WHEN THEY TURN 18 YEARS OLD. THEY CLOSED ON THE HOUSE JUST BEFORE THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC SHUT DOWN THE COUNTRY AND SAY ONE DAY IT WILL BE GABRIELLA AND MASON’S HOME.
Jamila Paksima: So, Mason.
Mason GrowMiller: Yeah?
Jamila Paksima: Do you like the size of your family or do you want to have a bigger family or a smaller family?
Mason GrowMiller: I like the size of my family.
Jamila Paksima: Is it perfect just the way it is?
Mason GrowMiller: Mm hmm.
Jamila Paksima: What makes it so perfect?
Mason GrowMiller: Uh, because I have two dads. That’s what make it perfect, and I have, and I have a family.
Gabriella GrowMiller: That’s so very sweet, Mason. Now it’s my turn. I love being with my family because they are so special to me. The end.
YVONNE LATTY: NEXT IN PART TWO OF FOSTERING HATE, WE HEAR WHAT IT’S REALLY LIKE TO GO THROUGH FOSTER CARE AS AN LGBTQ YOUTH AND LEARN, FIRST-HAND, WHAT THE EXPERIENCE OF HAVING NON-AFFIRMING FOSTER PARENTS IS LIKE FROM TWO QUEER FORMER FOSTER CHILDREN: AZAIR FROM PHILADELPHIA AND NIA FROM MARYLAND.
Nia Clark: I had to choose between safety, permanency and well-being and my gender identity. And that’s a decision that no child should ever, ever, ever have to make.
Jamila Paksima: So what do you wish you knew when you were a child about your gender and sexual identity that you know now?
Azair: I wish that I could’ve been accepting of it since day one, that I figured it out. Like I feel like I shouldn’t have had to hide it from the world. Of the fear of being bullied for it in school or the fear of being told to shut up because I don’t know what I like. I should have been able to come out when I felt like I was.
JAMILA PAKSIMA: THESE ARE COMPLICATED STORIES ABOUT PEOPLE WHO FIGHT FOR THEIR TRUTH. THOSE WHO ARE DEMANDING AFFIRMING POLICIES, WHICH WILL NOT ROB CHILDREN OF THEIR POWER, NOR STRIP ANY AMERICAN OF HAVING EQUAL ACCESS, INFLUENCE, PROTECTIONS, AND VOTING RIGHTS.
YVONNE LATTY: IF YOU KNOW SOMEONE WHO HAS EXPERIENCED A HATE INCIDENT OR CRIME, PLEASE CONTACT THE APPROPRIATE LOCAL AUTHORITIES OR ELECTED OFFICIALS. YOU CAN ALSO DOCUMENT WHAT HAPPENED AT SPLCENTER.ORG.
JAMILA PAKSIMA: THIS IS SOUNDS LIKE HATE, AN INDEPENDENT AUDIO DOCUMENTARY BROUGHT TO YOU BY THE SOUTHERN POVERTY LAW CENTER.
PRODUCED BY UNTIL 20 PRODUCTIONS. I’M JAMILA PAKSIMA.
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