Happening today:

9 a.m. | Gaming Commission meets on a sports wagering operator license application for Massasoit Greyhound Association.

10 a.m. | Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll holds a press conference to announce $140.9 million in awards as part of the MA Repay Student Loan Repayment Program. | Brockton Neighborhood Health Center, 63 Main St., Brockton

5:30 p.m. | Congressman Jim McGovern and state lawmakers raise funds for farmers who lost crops to recent flooding through the Massachusetts Farm Resiliency Fund | Berkshire Brewing Company, 12 Railroad St., Deerfield

5:30 p.m. | Boston Mayor Michelle Wu speaks among the flowers at the 2023 Mayor’s Garden Contest Awards Ceremony. | Boston Public Garden near Washington Statue, Arlington Street at Commonwealth Avenue Mall, Boston

The state that was first to legalize same-sex marriage and now seen as ground zero in the fight to expand LGBTQ rights is being sued over an agency decision to bar a devout Catholic couple from becoming foster parents.

The suit centers on the couple’s refusal to offer gender-affirming medical care for youth in their care. It brings a growing national anti-trans movement targeting transitioning youth home to Massachusetts.

Michael and Catherine “Kitty” Burke allege that the decision by the state Department of Children and Families is discriminatory and unconstitutional in a 132-page complaint. DCF does not comment on pending litigation, an official told MASSterList. 

“For Massachusetts, this case reminds us that efforts to target transgender and LGBTQ youth happen here in Massachusetts too,” says Patience Crozier, director of family advocacy at GLAD Massachusetts. She pointed to research showing family acceptance and positive impacts on youth health and well-being and said the state foster system’s policy that requires “culturally responsive and affirming case management… including gender-affirming care when applicable” is on firm legal ground.

But Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker — pointing to a Boston Globe story of a 15-year-old boy trapped for 40 days in a windowless hospital room while awaiting placement — is backing the Burkes and calling DCF’s decision “absurd.”

Kitty Burke told a DCF social worker the couples’ Catholic faith wouldn’t allow them to fully commit to LGBTQ acceptance. ‘Let’s take the T out of it,’ she allegedly said. She could accept and love lesbian, gay or bisexual youth as long as they lived a “chaste life” but does not believe in gender-affirming care — or “chemical castration” as she called it — for children. Her husband echoed her sentiment.

Roughly 17 percent — more than 1,300 — of the 17,810 foster kids in Massachusetts identify as LGBTQ. And they are at particularly high riskwith 45 percent of transgender and nonbinary youth and 38 percent of LGBTQ youth of color found to have attempted suicide within the past year, in a 2021 study by the Trevor Project. 

The Burkes have said their goal is not only to be approved to be foster parents but “to end this campaign against faith and kids in need once and for all.” They’re backed by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty — one of several “hardline religious-right groups” looking to reverse recent progress in LGBT rights including same-sex that are supported by the majority of Americans, the Southern Poverty Law Center said.

Becket and the religious right have more recently set their sights on rolling back LGBTQ policies, infiltrating government agencies and waging court battles. Since 2021, more than 20 Republican-led states passed bills constricting the behavior of transgender children and teens. And the rollback on rights could continue. State legislators across the nation have filed at least 533 bills attacking the rights of LGBTQ people this session. That includes one bill in Massachusetts filed “by request” that would allow local school committees power to regulate conversations around sexual orientation and gender identity in “certain grade levels,” including requiring parental consent. 

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Stephen Lynch directed $3 million in earmarks to wife’s employer, affiliate organization

U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch resumed his habit of sending millions in earmarks to his wife’s employer and an addiction treatment provider where she is a board member. The South Boston health center where Margaret Lynch works won a $2 million earmark in fiscal year 2023 The prior year, $1 million was tagged for the Gavin Foundation. It’s a nonprofit providing addiction services where Margaret Lynch is an unpaid director. Lynch has awarded the two organizations a total of 11 awards over 20 years. The congressman argues the awards do not violate congressional strictures against a family member having “any financial interest” in a requested earmark. Political-ethics scholars have been know to say otherwise.

The Boston Globe

Widett Circle recovery center pitched for relief at Mass and Cass

Local businesses and neighborhood groups are pitching a recovery campus at the MBTA-owned Widett Circle as a way to relieve some pressure over the violence, squalor and rampant drug activity at Mass and Cass. Chris Lisinski for the News Service reports the proposal would stand up dozens of temporary cabins and could support around 200 residents through various steps of recovery. Widett Circle is a 24-acre property that was previously home to the New Boston Food Mart Corporation.

State House News Service | CBS Boston

State gives cities, towns more flexibility on new MBTA zoning

Cities and towns encompassed in the state’s new MBTA zoning regulations that require at least one high-density area now have more flexibility to comply. In updated guidelines announced last week, the state said units in mixed-use buildings with commercial space required on the ground floor to count towards a community’s compliance with the law. The same reg change increases the scope of penalties for communities that still refuse to comply. The changes do not reduce the total unit capacity required. The News Service’s Colin A. Young reports all but one of the 177 cities and towns that are considered “MBTA communities” are in compliance. The one non-compliant town is Holden. 

State House News Service

Here’s how government can avoid the 4 big economic development pitfalls

Federal investment in economic development is funneling about $2 trillion in new money to states, municipalities, and businesses to rebuild neglected transportation and energy systems, restore critical supply chains, expand manufacturing in keystone industries, and taking new technologies to market. Former state Education Secretary Jim Peyser and former Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Jay Ash lay out the four biggest pitfalls and their strategy for how government should avoid them in a Commonwealth op-ed.

CommonWealth Magazine

Boston’s embattled Ricardo Arroyo in dead heat to keep seat as controversies swirl

Boston City Councilor Ricardo Arroyo is battling three formidable contenders to keep his seat and serve out a third term. The progressive lawmaker from one of Boston’s best-known political families has been buffeted by controversy over the last year, writes Danny McDonald for The Boston Globe — including an ethics violation, a scandal involving the downfall of a US attorney, and years-old sexual assault allegations he vehemently denies. Arroyo maintains he did nothing wrong — that he was never charged with a crime, and that he has never committed any sexual violence. But the allegations that may have cost him the DA’s race last year still hang over his chances in the upcoming council race.

The Boston Globe

Towns in limbo over use of historic preservation funds on religious restoration

Over half of Massachusetts cities and towns have bought into a property surtax under the Community Preservation Act, to raise money for affordable housing, open space and historic preservation. More than two decades after communities began charging taxpayers and doling out grants, millions of dollars have been spent to restore some of the state’s 250 historic churches — payouts that Jennifer Smith of CommonWealth Magazine reports may have been unconstitutional. An SJC ruling in a case over a stained-glass window restoration in Acton found no wholesale issue with the CPA, but noted funding projects to restore explicitly religious iconography likely crosses the line. It’s unclear exactly where that line is, because the court sent a part of the case that might have more explicitly answered that question back to a lower court for further review. The two sides then agreed to drop that part of the case before a court ruling was made. 

CommonWealth Magazine

Boston nonprofit preps students of color for college in post-affirmative action academia

The Thrive Scholars program exemplifies how organizations that advocate for diversity are responding after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to restrict the use of race in college admissions. That ruling’s expected to translate into a rollback in student diversity on college campuses with growing research showing selective-school admissions tend to favor the wealthy.

For WBUR, Max Larkin reports a new sense of urgency in the Thrive Scholars college prep course. It’s been around for 20 years and helps rising seniors in high school from low-income households and who have demonstrated academic excellence. All are first-generation college applicants or students of color, or both.


Afghan evacuees face uncertainty 2 years after arrival

More than 2,000 Afghan evacuees have resettled in Massachusetts over the past two years since the U.S. started its military withdrawal. GBH’s Sarah Betancourt reports Afghan migrants now deal with uncertainty and the knowledge that their immigration status under humanitarian parole expires this year. Without policy change, they will only be able to renew for one more year. Many of the evacuees worked in Afghanistan with the American military or promoted democracy in humanitarian groups — roles that make them targets for retribution under the Taliban.


Feds cough up $2 million for migrant housing crisis costing state tens of millions

A federal infusion of $1.9 million coming to Boston and the state to tackle the migrant housing crisis will go toward expanding shelter services and transportation for new immigrant arrivals. The News Service’s Alison Kuznitz writes that the money comes about a week after Gov. Maura Healey declared a state of emergency due to strained shelter systems. The bulk of the money will go to the state  State officials will fund leases for housing at Eastern Nazarene College in Quincy, where a dorm is operating as a temporary shelter and Boston plans to pay for temporary hotel rooms. An influx of arriving migrants has pushed state shelter services past capacity with more than 5,800 unhoused families seeking resources — costing the state $45 million a month, the Healey administration has said.

GBH | State House News Service

Migrant welcome center in the works for Worcester

The influx of newly arriving migrants from other countries has prompted Worcester’s city manager to consider opening a “welcome center” like the two stood up by the Healey administration in Allston and Quincy. The Boston Herald’s Chris Van Buskirk covers the story. State officials have used the welcome centers to serve as an entry point for migrants and displaced families to the state’s shelter system and basic services that are under strain as need rises. City manager Eric Batista said last week on the radio show “Talk of the Commonwealth,” that he is working with state and federal and partners to provide “both short and long-term solutions.”

The Boston Herald | Talk of the Commonwealth

Framingham mayor warns of city’s ability to handle migrant influx 

Framingham Mayor Charlie Sisitsky is warning that the city is struggling to keep up with the waves of migrant families arriving in local shelters. Families began arriving in July and 18 more families moved in last week, casting doubt on whether the city can accommodate the influx of students and continue to connect the families with the social services safety net.

MetroWest Daily News

Harvard case ending affirmative action is just the beginning

The conservative legal mind behind the Supreme Court court decision ruling Harvard University and the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill could no longer use the policy to ensure a diverse campus — effectively ending affirmative action — isn’t done yet. Edward Blum, writes the Globe’s Hilary Burns, now has race-based preferences in corporate America, including commonplace policies promoting diversity, equity and inclusion, in his sights.

The Boston Globe

Out: After months of turmoil, Amherst superintendent out as school year begins 

The Amherst school district will be searching for a new superintendent just as the school year starts after announcing on Friday it would part ways with longtime leader Michael Morris. Morris had abruptly left his post in May, citing medical reasons, amid an uproar over the treatment of transgender students in the district, and has been on the hot seat since returning.

Daily Hampshire Gazette | Western Mass Politics

How MGM Springfield is meeting expectations as casino turns five 

Casinos are so cute at this age. Five years after it made history by becoming the first resort casino to open in Massachusetts, the debate over whether MGM Springfield has lived up to expectations continues. Jim Kinney of MassLive talks to city leaders, lawmakers and others and finds optimism persists, even as the casino has yet to meet its pre-opening revenue projections.


Condition of condemned properties underscores Nantucket housing crisis 

Health officials on Nantucket have condemned two properties recently after they were found being used as shotgun residencies, including a barn where at least 10 people lived in what one official called “one of the worst housing scenarios I’ve seen.” Jason Graziadei of the Nantucket Current reports housing advocates say the incidents underscore the need to add workforce housing on the island.

Nantucket Current

Erin Tiernan was a Editor and Author of MASSterList