News Roundup: Married Same-Sex Couple Denied Chance to Foster Refugee Children

Our daily look at Texas headlines.

By Becky FogelFebruary 21, 2018 1:51 pm

The Standard’s news roundup gives you a quick hit of interesting, sometimes irreverent, and breaking news stories from all over the state.

A married same-sex couple in Fort Worth is suing the federal government and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). You can view the legal complaint here.

They say they were blocked from fostering refugee children because they’re lesbians. Texas A&M University professors Bryn Esplin and Fatma Marouf asked the local Catholic Charities chapter about becoming foster parents for the federal Unaccompanied Refugee Minors Program last February.

Esplin and Marouf say that during their first interview, they shared that they were a married same-sex couple. At that point, the director of international foster care at Catholic Charities Fort Worth, which is the local affiliate of the USCCB, told them they could not be foster parents because their family did not “mirror the Holy family.”

Esplin spoke with reporters Tuesday, and said “To be turned away from even applying because we don’t mirror the holy family, which we clarified meant we were a same-sex couple, was not just disappointing to us, but it denies children the opportunity to have a loving home.”

Kenneth Upton is senior counsel with Lambda Legal, a nonprofit that advocates for LGBT rights. He is one of the lawyers representing Esplin and Marouf in this lawsuit. He says after Marouf, who runs an immigration law clinic for Texas A&M, was told that she and her wife didn’t qualify to be foster parents, she asked what the organization did with LGBT minors who need foster care placements. Upton says Marouf was told “Oh, we don’t have any of those here. Of the hundreds of people we don’t have any here.” Upton continued. “And she said, ‘Well, from my experience, I think I’ll take issue with you on that.’ So it was a very interesting experience.”

More than 700 unaccompanied refugee children are in this organization’s care.

Upton adds that religious beliefs should have no place in deciding who can or cannot apply for a government program even when it’s administered by a religious group. Catholic Charities USA receives taxpayer money from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to run this program.

“If the government can’t do it, they can’t pay someone else to do it,” says Upton.  “And that’s what’s happening here and HHS knows they could never use mirroring the Holy Family as the criteria to receive federal funds, so they give them to a Catholic group, and say, oh but you can do it – here!”

The Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops and the Fort Worth Diocese said in a statement to KERA News that Catholic Charities USA operates the foster care programs within the parameters of church teachings and in compliance with federal regulations.

Today, Texas lawmakers are digging into how the state funds its public colleges and universities. They’re set to tackle a couple of issues including the amount of money allocated for special projects and funding formulas.

The first meeting of the Joint Interim Committee on Higher Education Formula Funding kicked off on Wednesday morning. The Texas Tribune reports the panel was a compromise after the Texas Senate’s efforts to revamp the higher education finance system failed in the face of opposition from college leaders and influential state representatives.

State Sen. Kelly Hancock, a north Texas Republican, is co-chair of the committee. He told those testifying to let go of the past.  “Clean out your closet, get rid of those ties that don’t work any more, suits don’t work anymore. And work with us to make sure we have the right structure in place to make sure we’re promoting the best outcomes in our higher education institutions today.”

Hancock also said comprehensive updates haven’t been made to the finance system since 1998. A second meeting is set for next Tuesday.

While it still remains to be seen if Amazon will choose a Texas city for its second headquarters, CEO Jeff Bezos is forging ahead with a different project in the state.

He’s backing the construction of a giant clock inside of a hollowed-out and secluded West Texas mountain. The clock is meant to keep time for the next 10,000 years. It’s known appropriately as a “10,000-year clock” and Bezos is funneling $42 million to the project, according to The Verge.

In a blog post, Bezos, said the idea for the clock dates back to 1989 and is the brainchild of Danny Hillis. Bezos himself has been involved for about six years and announced on Twitter that installation of the clock began Tuesday. The vision for the clock is that it will tick one a year, the century hand advances every 100 years. The cuckoo comes out on the millennium.

The question is: will it run on Mountain time?