Skip to main content
Card Image

Oregon mom appeals to 9th Circuit: End ideological litmus test, let children find forever homes

ADF attorneys represent Jessica Bates, who state officials excluded from the adoption process because of her beliefs

Wednesday, Dec 13, 2023

PORTLAND, Ore. – Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing an Oregon mother of five who wishes to adopt siblings under the age of 10 from foster care filed a notice of appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit Wednesday after a lower court ruled against her. Oregon state officials categorically excluded Jessica Bates from the adoption process because she refused to speak or act against her belief that boys and girls are biologically different and should cherish that difference, not reject it.

ADF attorneys are asking the 9th Circuit to allow Bates to access Oregon’s adoption system free of discrimination while her lawsuit continues so that she can provide a loving home to children in need.

“No state should abandon children in favor of a dangerous ideological agenda,” said ADF Legal Counsel Johannes Widmalm-Delphonse. “Jessica is a loving mother who feels called to adopt siblings under the age of 10 from foster care. But the state of Oregon is categorically excluding her from adopting any child because Jessica shares a view held by millions of Americans: that boys and girls are biologically different and should cherish that difference, not reject it. Because Jessica will not promote Oregon’s radical gender ideology to children under the age of 10, the state considers her an unfit parent and has deprived hundreds, if not thousands, of children in Oregon’s system of the opportunity to be raised in a loving home. We urge the 9th Circuit to allow Jessica to continue her adoption journey and provide a loving home to children in need.”

Bates began the process of applying to become certified to adopt children from foster care last year. The Oregon Department of Human Services, the agency responsible for overseeing the state’s child welfare programs, denied her application because Bates would not agree to say and do things that conflict with her faith, like facilitating a child’s access to dangerous drug interventions that block their natural, biological development, taking children to Pride parades, or using pronouns inconsistent with a child’s sex.

Although Jessica repeatedly told ODHS officials that she would happily love and accept any child placed with her, officials still rejected her application, making her ineligible to adopt any child—even children who share Jessica’s religious beliefs. ODHS’s policy needlessly penalizes Bates and many other people of faith for their religious views, compels parents to speak words that violate their conscience, and deprives religious families of equal protection of the law because of their faith.

Bates, who lost her husband in a car collision six years ago, is a mother of five children, ages 10 to 18. Inspired by the story of a man who adopted a child from foster care, Bates felt a calling to follow the biblical teaching to care for orphans. State officials, however, rejected her application because she refused to abandon her religious beliefs.

Rebekah Schultheiss is serving as local counsel on behalf of Bates.

  • Pronunciation guide: Widmalm-Delphonse (VEED'-malm Del-FONS')

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization committed to protecting religious freedom, free speech, parental rights, and the sanctity of life.

# # #