This year Martin Luther King Day was a special one for me, personally and professionally. On Monday, I cuddled up with my three-year old son Oliver and read portions of March, the moving graphic novel trilogy about the civil rights movement written by Representative John Lewis. On Wednesday, I had the honor of meeting the Representative’s staff to share Children’s Rights’ support for a critical bill he has sponsored.
Oliver was riveted by March and especially by its portrayal of Dr. King as a towering voice of peace and justice who died so tragically. As an Atlanta native, I grew up listening to the same stories of the movement to change the world that has its roots in my birthplace. I was born here and currently live just miles from Dr. King’s spiritual home, Ebenezer Baptist Church. Today, my office is just a quick trip to Representative Lewis’s headquarters, which is where I found myself last Wednesday.
My colleagues and I were there to applaud and support the Every Child Deserves a Family Act (ECDF). It was introduced in June by Lewis and Republican Representative Jenniffer González-Colón of Puerto Rico.
The ECDF Act promotes the best interests of children by prohibiting federally-funded child welfare agencies from discriminating against children, families, and individuals on the basis of religion, sex (including sexual orientation and gender identity), and marital status.
Our nation is currently facing a shortage of homes available for young people who need them. There are more than 440,000 children in foster care across the country, and each year 20,000 children age out of the system without a permanent family. Now, a spate of state laws and policies, and a pending federal proposal that would enshrine taxpayer-funded discrimination on religious grounds, threaten to reduce the number of foster homes, forcing children to languish in badly broken child welfare systems.
Eleven states have enacted laws that explicitly allow adoption agencies to discriminate against families that are, in their view, not “traditional”— such as LGBTQ, religious minority, and mixed faith families. Meanwhile, the Trump Administration is close to undoing Obama-era regulations and authorizing nationwide discrimination in foster care and adoption agencies. In light of this, we expect states will continue to feel empowered to pass similar laws across the country. Only federal legislation can put a stop to these heinous, cruel laws.
That is why Children’s Rights supports the ECDF Act – and applauds Representative Lewis.
It’s also why Children’s Rights recently launched our Interfaith Coalition for Children’s Rights. Partnering with faith organizations around the country, Children’s Rights and the Interfaith Coalition oppose legislation and policy changes that would enshrine taxpayer-funded ‘licenses to discriminate’ into law, and ultimately deprive vulnerable children of safe, loving homes.
In March, John Lewis paints a vivid picture of his own life-long struggle for justice – all the way from poverty on a sharecropper’s farm to the halls of Congress and from being beaten by a state trooper in Selma to receiving the Medal of Freedom from the first African-American president.
Today, even as he does battle against a deadly cancer, John Lewis continues to fight the good fight on behalf of vulnerable children who would otherwise have no voice. We are honored to be his constituents and support him in this fight.