Vermont couples sue state, claim foster licenses were revoked because of their religious beliefs about gender

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Vermont is being sued after revoking the foster-care licenses of two Christian couples after they told the state they were not willing to affirm the chosen gender identity of their foster children, and one of the plaintiffs has her own experience with gender confusion.

Pastor Brian Wuoti and his wife Katy, along with Pastor Bryan Gantt and his wife Rebecca, were suspended from renewing their foster care licenses in the state of Vermont because of their religious beliefs about gender identity, according to a lawsuit filed by Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) against Vermont’s Department of Children and Families (DCF). 

The Wuotis became foster parents in 2014 and successfully adopted two brothers from foster care. Social workers praised the family, calling them “amazing” and saying they “probably could not handpick a more wonderful foster family,” the lawsuit states. But in 2022, Vermont revoked their license after they expressed doubt that they could encourage a child to “transition,” especially because Katy struggled with gender dysphoria as a child and at one time wanted to be perceived as a boy. 

“I was at a garage sale with my dad, and I really wanted this model car, and the homeowner came over and said, ‘I think every little boy should have a model car’ and every time I got mistaken for a boy, I was thrilled,” she told Fox News Digital.

Brian and Katy Wuoti are residents of Windham County, Vermont.  (Alliance Defending Freedom)

But she said her dad’s response to the man is what had the biggest effect on her view of her gender identity, ultimately influencing her approach to the issue as a parent. 

“My dad said, ‘She’s a girl, but I do think she should have the model car,’ and then he bought me the model car,” Katy said. “Him letting me like the things I liked and loving me for who I was, but not lying to me and like I said before, not encouraging me to hate my own body, is just the kind of love that I think that children need.”

“It’s really the basis of what the state wants us to say, that because of my personal experience, they want to require us to see things that go against what I know to be true in my own life,” she added. “I know that it’s true that I felt loved and affirmed and secure in my own family, and we would love any child, we just couldn’t say anything that went against our deeply held beliefs.”

Similarly, the Gantts became foster parents in 2016 and have since adopted three children out of the system. The couple focused on caring for children born with drug dependencies or with fetal alcohol syndrome. 

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Last September, the state turned to them in an emergency situation and asked if they’d be willing to adopt a baby that was about to be born to a homeless woman who was addicted to drugs, and the Gants jumped at the opportunity to help the child in need. 

Officials said the Gantts were “the perfect home” and the department’s “first choice” for this baby, but when they expressed concern about the department’s policy about gender identity, DCF immediately refused to let the couple adopt the baby in need and instead revoked their license, the lawsuit states.

ADF attorneys argue that Vermont would prefer children have no home rather than place them with families that have religious beliefs like those of the Wuotis and the Gantts. 

Katy Wuoti with one of her children.

Katy Wuoti with one of her children.  (Alliance Defending Freedom)

“Because of my experience, it has really affected the way that I’ve seen this whole gender ideology push on children,” Katy told Fox News Digital. “We absolutely love people, and one of the big things about our religion is that we absolutely believe that people are made in the image of God. Every single person, everyone is deserving of dignity and respect.”

“My parents raised me in such a way where they loved me and let me like the things I liked, but never encouraged me to hate my own body, and I feel that that is very harmful towards children, to encourage them towards that mentality,” she added. 

Because Vermont’s foster-care system has more children in need than families willing to care for them, the DCF has reported that it has had to place some children in hospitals, police stations and with unlicensed families, due in part to the brutal impact of the area’s opioid crisis, according to the lawsuit. 

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“This case is about Vermont turning its back on its most vulnerable citizens: the children in need, while trampling our constitutional rights, all in the name of ideological agenda,” Johannes Widmalm-Delphonse, legal counsel at ADF, told Fox News Digital. The Wuotis and the Gantts “were model foster parents for years, and they adopted children from the foster care system and turned them away just because they couldn’t say things that went against their beliefs, like inaccurate pronouns or telling a child to reject their body.”

“We saw a great need for foster families due to the opioid crisis hitting our community when we decided to start fostering children in 2016,” Bryan Gantt told Fox News Digital. “Throughout the years, Vermont’s Department of Child and Families has sent out many emails stating that the state is in a crisis and desperately needs more families to stand in the gap for the children in the system. We’ve adopted three children from foster-care who we love with all our hearts. We always had great relationships with DCF social workers, but that didn’t matter when Vermont asked us to change our religious views to continue acting as foster parents. Vermont puts its ideology above the well-being of kids. We hope that our license will get restored and that Vermont will end its discriminatory policy and allow religious families like us to continue serving children in need.”

Rebecca and Bryan Gantt, residents of Windham County, Vermont.

Rebecca and Bryan Gantt, residents of Windham County, Vermont.  (Alliance Defending Freedom)

Widmalm-Delphonse said there is a “desperate” need for fostering services in Vermont, so any family willing to take in children in need should be allowed, even if they have varying beliefs. 

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Katy said she has seen first-hand that there are children who share their Christian beliefs and would desire to live in a home like theirs. 

“About a week ago, before our lawsuit became public, a local foster mom reached out to me not knowing anything about our case and asked me to help her pick out a Bible for her foster child who was asking for one and asking for advice on churches and things like that,” she said. “So, there are foster kids out there that desire a Christian family, desire a Bible-believing family.”

Brian Wuoti speaking to his children.

Brian Wuoti speaking to his children. (Alliance Defending Freedom)

Fox News Digital covered a similar case in the state in which a couple sent a demand letter to Vermont about a threat they received, warning them that their foster license could be revoked over their position on transgender ideology and sex-change treatments for kids in their care. 

Melinda Antonucci and Casey Mathieu said the state made them take part in an LGBTQ+ training as part of their license application, which discussed medical procedures for trans kids. The couple refused to go along with the requests and said that since then, their foster license has been effectively shadow-revoked, and they have not received correspondence about foster placements in weeks.

ADF also represents a Washington couple, Shane and Jennifer DeGross, who are suing the state because it denied them the opportunity to foster children due to their religious beliefs about gender identity. 

They claim the agency denied their application because they refused to use a foster child’s pronouns based on their perceived gender identity instead of their biological sex and required parents to take children to cultural events like pride parades. Like the Wuotis and the Gantts, they had previously spent nine years serving as foster parents before their license was revoked. 

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Fox News’ Michael Dorgan contributed to this report.

This post was originally published on Fox News

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