Catholic Couple Sues State After Foster Application Denial


A boy carries a flag during the New York City Pride March, June 26, 2016 in New York City.
(Photo by Eric Thayer/Getty Images)


A Massachusetts couple, Mike and Catherine “Kitty” Burke, have filed a lawsuit against the state’s Department of Children and Families (DCF), alleging religious discrimination.

Both devout Catholics, the Burkes claim they were denied the opportunity to foster children because of their adherence to traditional Catholic teachings, particularly regarding gender, sexuality, and marriage. The state’s primary reason for rejecting their application was their potential inability to affirm a child who identifies as LGBTQIA.

Kitty Burke expressed her concerns during an appearance on Fox News’ ‘“The Story,” emphasizing that they view the state’s decision as indicative of a broader issue: the denial of foster licenses to applicants based on their religious beliefs. She said, “We believe the reason we were rejected is because we were very vocal in the fact that we are practicing Catholics… and we stand firm in the church’s beliefs on traditional marriage and sexuality.”

Burke also highlighted, “The real issue at stake here is whether or not religious families should be allowed to foster and adopt here in the state of Massachusetts.”

Mike Burke reinforced their commitment to their faith and stated that despite their beliefs, they would continue to love a child regardless of their LGBTQ+ identity. He conveyed, “One of the things of our Catholic faith is we love one another as God has loved us. I would love that child no matter [what]. Just like my mother loved me whenever I did something wrong.”

The couple’s journey towards fostering was intensive, involving a series of interviews and training sessions. After undergoing years of struggles with infertility, they were nearing the conclusion of the foster process when they were informed of the state’s decision to deny their application.

The Burkes expressed their sorrow, saying, “We were absolutely devastated to learn that Massachusetts would rather children sleep in the hallways of hospitals than let us welcome children in need into our home.”

The lawsuit describes the couple’s beliefs, emphasizing their commitment to love and support any child placed in their home. However, they also maintain their stance against procedures that would alter a child’s “God-given sex” and remain firm in upholding the Catholic teachings on marriage and sexuality.

Lori Windham, senior counsel at Becket Law, represents the Burkes in their lawsuit. She highlighted a crucial point, stating that Massachusetts is facing a shortage of available foster homes, which was exacerbated by the pandemic. She noted, “They have hundreds of children who are waiting for homes today… They can’t afford to do that when they have so many children who are in need of homes right now.”

The official denial letter the Burkes received was included in the lawsuit. It specified that to become a licensed foster or adoptive parent, one must support and respect a child’s sexual orientation or gender identity, effectively promoting their overall well-being.

The Burkes’ lawsuit seeks several remedies:

  1. A prohibition against Massachusetts using LGBTQ accommodations as a reason to deny foster licenses to religious applicants.
  2. Approval of the Burkes’ application to foster children.
  3. Nominal and compensatory damages to be awarded to the couple.

Defendants named in the suit include Massachusetts Health and Human Services Secretary Kate Walsh and Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Children & Families Linda Spears, among others.


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