I read the news today (in Texas, where I'm giving a talk tonight), and... oh boy.
The Texas House has approved a bill that would provide legal cover to adoption and foster care agencies that turn away prospective parents or refuse certain services based on the agencies' religious beliefs. Democrats and groups advocating for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights said it amounted to state-sanctioned discrimination. Republicans heralded the bill’s passage as a step forward in addressing the state’s foster care crisis. “This is a defensive bill. It allows everyone to participate,” said bill author Rep. James Frank, R-Wichita Falls.
The bill is so broadly worded that it would allow adoption and foster care agencies to refuse to work with Jewish or Muslim couples who want to be foster parents—even if the agency were placing Jewish or Muslim children—and it would allow adoption and foster care agencies to place a kid in a foster home with strangers even if that kid had a gay relative who was qualified and willing to take them in. This is how Texas proposes to "address" its foster care crisis: by making it worse.
The Department of Family and Protective Service's "Bill of Rights" [were] recently amended to remove explicit protections for LGBT children, according to KXAN-TV. The bill of rights used to read, "I have the right to fair treatment, whatever my gender, gender identity, race, ethnicity, religion, national origin, disability, medical problems, or sexual orientation." The words "gender identity" and "sexual orientation" were removed in February, and the beginning was changed to, "I have the right to 'be treated fairly."
More than 40% of homeless teenagers are queer kids who were thrown out of the house after they came out or were outed—so lots of the kids going into foster care are queer, and many of them were abused, neglected, or made homeless by violently homophobic/transphobic parents acting on their "sincerely-held religious beliefs." Queer kids who are in the foster care system because their biological families abused and rejected them for being queer are often placed in foster homes headed by religious conservatives where they're abused and rejected for being queer all over again.
But never let it be said that Texas state legislators only want to see queer kids suffer. They want all kids to suffer:
House members voted Wednesday to bar doctors from vaccinating new foster children, even against cervical cancer and head and neck cancers caused by the human papillomavirus, or HPV.... Until a judge terminates parental rights, the parents' wishes on medical treatment for their children should be honored, argued GOP Reps. Bill Zedler and Tony Tinderholt, both of Arlington. That includes desires such as not having children immunized or given a tonsillectomy, Tinderholt said. "You get that child back five, eight, 10 days later, and they've now had that surgery or they've had these vaccinations," he said. "That's an issue of liberty."
One member of the Texas house—Sarah Davis—proposed to exempt vaccines that have been shown to prevent cancer. "Her target was HPV, a virus that causes genital warts," reports the Dallas Morning News. There's a vaccine for HPV, a highly effective one, and that's the vaccine Bill Zedler and Tony Tinderholt were targeting with this bill. Religious conservatives hate the HPV vaccine because it allows people to have sex without having to risk, at some point later in life, dying of cancer:
"[The human papilloma virus] causes 30,700 cancers in men and women in the U.S. each year. In Texas, cervical cancer killed 429 women in 2014, Davis said. Men are at risk of cancers to the head, neck, anus and penis. Davis noted, though, that only 41 percent of girls and 24 percent of boys in Texas were fully protected against HPV in 2015, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC says "nearly all sexually active men and women get [HPV] at some point in their lives." Zedler, though, said parents are the best judges of whether vaccines are needed...
Forcing kids, especially older kids, to wait until the parental rights of their biological parents are terminated—a process that can take years—means these kids may not be vaccinated against HPV until after they're sexually active and possibly infected. Which is the whole murderous point: religious conservatives fought the introduction of the HPV vaccine because it saves lives. Like I wrote here:
HPV is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections. HPV is easily transmitted by skin-to-skin contact; condoms provide some protection, but not much. Most people who have been exposed to the human papilloma virus don't know they've been exposed. Most are asymptomatic. An asymptomatic person can still pass the virus on. A small percentage of women who have HPV go on to develop cervical cancer and some of those women wind up dead. Religious conservatives loved HPV because it killed women. Here was a potentially fatal STI that condoms couldn't protect you from. Abstinence educators pointed to HPV and jumped up and down—they loved to overstate HPV's seriousness and its deadliness—in their efforts to scare kids into saving themselves for marriage. And they fought the introduction of the HPV vaccine tooth-and-nail because vaccinating women against HPV would "undermine" the abstinence message. Given a choice between your wife, daughter, sister, or mom dying of cervical cancer or no longer being to scream "HPV IS GOING TO KILL YOU!" at classrooms full of terrified teenagers, socially conservative abstinence "educators" preferred the former.
The CDC recommends that all children receive the HPV vaccine by age 12. I would recommend all children be evacuated from Texas immediately. It's not a safe place for kids to grow up—hell, Texas isn't a safe place for women to give birth.