An unexpected voice argues that RFRA will harm children the most

Tamya McGee • Detroit

tamyaTamya McGee just graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in Political Science and has just been offered a position as a rehab assistant, helping children with brain and spinal cord injuries.

She’s passionate about children and their well being, particularly children in the foster care system. And as someone who lived in temporary foster care herself, she speaks from experience.

Tamya is determined to advocate on behalf of children who are in need of loving and caring homes. That’s why she has grown increasingly alarmed with a new piece of legislation, an adoption-specific RFRA bill, over concerns that this bill could be used by foster agencies to use their religion as an excuse to deny prospective parents the ability to provide homes to children in need—purely on the basis of the parents’ sexual orientation or gender identity.

Her opposition to this misguided bill is so strong that she even testified before the Michigan legislature in Lansing, where she provided powerful testimony for the need for more qualified homes for foster children.

In her testimony, she told lawmakers, “It goes without saying that there is no room for discrimination in Michigan’s foster care system against any qualified parent. I speak from experience having lived in temporary foster care. We need every willing, loving adult able to care for our children when our parents cannot. It is my unequivocal belief that LGBT parents are just as fit to raise a child as their heterosexual counterparts. I share this belief despite being raised in a traditional Christian home and having gone through the foster system. Personal beliefs should not play any part in determining qualified placement for children… in need of a home.”

Placement should be in the best interest of the child and not in the best interest of the agency.”

Tamya, who acknowledges she does not support marriage equality for same-sex couples, has become an unexpected voice against the so-called Religious Freedom Restoration Act, because as she articulates so well just how harmful this bill could be for thousands of children across Michigan.

“This has more effect on children than anyone else and I really don’t think people are considering that like they should. One hundred percent, I believe that children would be better off being adopted by parents, even if those parents are gay.”

Speaking out against discriminatory laws that may target LGBT people has been a journey for Tamya, who acknowledges that she and her family have differing views on the subject. Yet Tamya argues that it is in part the teachings of her church—and the values instilled in her by her parents—that have brought her to the belief that discrimination is not how God would have intended it.

Tamya2“I was born and raised in a Christian church. I attend church three days a week and my mom is a missionary, my grandfather is a deacon. My brother, my cousin… we were all born and raised in the church.”

“What my church teaches me is that even though we are different, we’re not supposed to shun others and that we should do unto others as we would have them do unto us… The goal and the mission of any religion is to show love, but discrimination is the opposite of love.”

Tamya acknowledges that while the experiences of LGBT people and people of color are different, there are many parallels between the civil rights movement of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks, and the discriminatory laws we’re seeing today towards the LGBT community.

“RFRA is a law that would make a certain group of people in society less equal. It’s going against teachings and principles of MLK and Rosa Parks. They fought so that we can be equal, so that we didn’t have to have this argument. But with this proposed bill, some extreme Michigan lawmakers want to basically rewrite history.”

What concerns Tamya the most, is that by moving forward with a law like RFRA, it will embolden others who would already be inclined to discriminate, by giving the state seal of approval to their actions.

“Most Michiganders believe discrimination is wrong—but there’s always a bad apple, someone who wishes to discriminate on the basis of their personal beliefs. If we put into law that people can discriminate, so many willing parents will be turned away and so many children will suffer. The cost of that will be children who will age out of the system. The system was not made to raise children, parents were made to raise children. Making discrimination legal would set our state—and mostly importantly our children—back significantly.

With an issue that can often diminish to the lowest common denominator, Tamya urges lawmakers to consider the unintended consequences that can result from a “license to discriminate” RFRA bill, particularly the thousands of children who may be denied a loving home if foster agencies are able to put their religious beliefs above the needs of children.