California’s bishops are opposing proposed legislation that would require new foster parents in the state to commit to providing “all services to LGBTQ+ children,” including gender transition procedures. 

State Bill 407, sponsored by Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), would also require foster family applicants to sign a document demonstrating their understanding “that sexual orientation, gender identity and expression can evolve over time.” 

The bill, introduced in March, claims that “LGBTQ foster youth are currently being placed in nonaffirming families that have been approved by counties and the state, causing additional harm and trauma.”

SB 407, whose supporters include advocacy groups Equality California and Family Builders, “helps ensure LGBTQ foster youth are not placed in hostile foster homes,” according to Wiener’s office

Opponents of the bill say that it would bar Christians and others who hold traditional views on gender and sexuality from welcoming foster children. 

“Loving families may question the appropriateness of certain services — whether from conscience, faith, or from concern with the medical soundness of gender affirming care,” California Catholic Conference Executive Director Kathleen Buckley Domingo wrote in a letter to the Senate judiciary committee last month.

Testifying on behalf of the state’s bishops at a Senate Human Services Committee hearing April 17, Domingo commended Wiener “for wishing to create pathways to provide children with loving and safe homes,” but criticized the bill for its “very narrow understanding of what makes an excellent resource family.”

If passed, the bill would shrink the already-limited pool of prospective foster homes, Domingo said. 

“Why can’t there be many kinds of families loving children and providing safe, protective homes?” she added, calling for “a solution in which people of faith, with deeply held beliefs about the nature of the human person and sexual integrity, can be and can remain excellent resource families to children in California.”

Current California law requires training for foster parents on preferred names and pronouns, as well as “cultural competency and best practices” regarding questions of gender and sexuality.

According to an analysis from the Senate Judiciary Committee, SB 407 would go further by requiring “potential resource families to demonstrate a capacity and willingness to meet a foster child’s needs regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, and to agree to seek out all available resources if issues arise.”

The bill passed the Senate’s Human Services and Judiciary committees last month and is set to be reviewed May 18 by the Senate Appropriations Committee, which will decide whether it should advance to the Senate for a vote. 

Other opponents to SB 407 include the Pacific Justice Institute (PJI), a religious freedom legal organization based in California. 

The group says the bill is at odds with a 2021 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, which found that the city’s refusal to contract with a Catholic agency unless it allowed same-sex couples to serve as foster parents was unconstitutional. 

“In view of the discrimination directed towards families such that they can never be eligible to foster children unless they accept government orthodoxy relative to LGBTQ+, SB 407 strays from neutrality and general applicability to a degree that it cannot be squared with the Supreme Court’s holding in Fulton,” the institute wrote in an April 18 letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee.