LEGISLATIVE ALERT: Two bills have been introduced in the Kansas legislature (HB 2687 and SB 401) that will have negative consequences for members of the LGBTQ community who wish to adopt children.
The bills, both entitled “Creating the Adoption Protection Act” would allow child placement agencies to deny placement of a child for adoption or foster care “when the proposed placement of such child would violate such agency’s sincerely held religious beliefs.”
The bills also would require the state to work with such placement agencies even though the agencies are free to discriminate against LGBTQ persons based on “sincerely held religious beliefs.”
Primary sponsors of the legislation are Rep. Susan Humphries (R-Wichita) and Rep. Jesse Burris (R-Mulvane). No hearing has been set yet.
The issue is that many of the adoption agencies in Kansas are religious based organizations and have already taken a stand against same-sex marriage, relationships and parenting rights. Indeed, if the agencies themselves have not taken such positions, the religious organizations they are affiliated with have taken those positions.
Religious litmus tests have no place in the evaluation of potential parents for the hundreds of children who need adoptive homes in Kansas.
The expanded use of religious-freedom exemptions comes even though protections for lesbian and gay individuals are non-existent in Kansas. There is no state law protecting LGBTQ persons from discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
An adoption law would be in a slightly different category than the broad state-based religious exemption laws, since it focuses solely on agencies providing adoption services, and because those agencies work for the state but are not the state itself. The legal question becomes: in a state where it’s legal for individuals to discriminate against people because of their sexuality and gender identity, can private agencies that do the work of a state also discriminate on those grounds when the state itself is constitutionally prohibited from doing so?
These proposed and passed laws on religious freedom are—pure and simple—government permission to discriminate. This is not only morally wrong in its own right, but will also result in real harm to children and youth.
Children in foster care are some of the most vulnerable residents of our society. They are in foster care because they have been abused or neglected or because their first families are unable to care for them safely.
The state has decided that it can do a better job of taking care of them; as a result, it has a legal and ethical obligation to do the best it can for these children. In child welfare, the focus is on making decisions based on the best interests of the child. Discriminating against LGBTQ youth and prospective LGBTQ and other parents is not in children’s best interest.
Allowing agencies to discriminate based on their leaders’ religious beliefs will cause genuine pain to real children. Right now there are more than 7,000 children and teens in foster care in Kansas. Many are waiting for an adoptive family to love and care for them now and for a lifetime. All of them deserve the chance to have what most of us have—and what state law requires whenever possible—a family to care for them.
Putting artificial, discriminatory and just plain harmful roadblocks in the way of a safe and loving home for needy children is morally wrong. This legislation must not pass.

February 9, 2018

Trump has attacked the LGBTQ community since day 1; ban on trans folk in the military is no surprise

Today’s mean-spirited, wrong-thinking, insulting, discriminatory tweet by Donald Trump saying that no trans person may serve in the military is garnering a lot of attention on social media and elsewhere. The order will affect some 2,450 persons already serving openly and an unknown number of potential recruits and unidentified trans persons in the military.

Some commentators are calling the announcement a surprise.

Unfortunately, it is less of a surprise and more of a continuation of what has been a steady attack on the advances that the LGBTQ community had made under President Obama’s administration.

To put today’s news in perspective, here is a brief history of the Trump assaults on LGBTQ advances:

● On January 20 (hours after he was inaugurated, the President had all mentions of LGBTQ issues removed from the official White House webpage.

● On January 23, Trump’s State Department removed former Secretary of State John Kerry’s apology for the infamous “Lavender Scare” (the 1950s and 1960s efforts to purge LGBTQ persons from federal employment), and other content LGBTQ content, like information on pride month observances and the State Department’s Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBT Persons, from its website.

● On January 30, the first rumors from the White House emerged about an impending announcement of Trump’s plan to roll-back President Obama’s executive order extending protections for LGBTQ federal workers.

●On January 31, President Trump nominates Judge Neil Gorsuch, an established opponent of LGBTQ rights, to the Supreme Court.

● On February 3, 2017, a leaked memo from the White House showed an internal policy document that the President was considering an Executive Order that would allow rampant governmental discrimination – LGBTQ people would lose their jobs and denied service. Under the proposal, government employees would be able to decline to deal with LGBTQ persons in the name of “religious liberty.”

● On February 7, Betsy DeVos, President Trump’s nominee as Secretary of Education, is confirmed after Vice President Pence breaks a Senate tie. DeVos’ family foundation funded major anti-LGBTQ organizations and campaigns. Her anti-equality record was denounced by major civil rights organizations, including HRC, which actively worked to stop her confirmation.

● On February 8, Jeff Sessions, a life-long opponent of LGBTQ legal rights is confirmed as President Trump’s Attorney General.

● On February 10, Tom Price, Trump’s Secretary of Health and Human Services nominee is approved. Price spent years in Congress opposing every LGBTQ equality measure.

● On February 22, at the President’s direction, the Departments of Education and Justice withdrew important guidelines that required schools to treat transgender boys and girls like other boys and girls under Title IX, the 1972 federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in education.

● On March 2, the Senate confirmed Ben Carson as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Carson’s  harmful rhetoric has included: equating marriage equality with bestiality; opposing laws that protect LGBTQ Americans from discrimination; and, suggesting transgender people be required to use separate bathrooms.

● On March 10, Trump’s HUD withdrew a requirement for emergency shelters receiving HUD funding to post information about LGBTQ people’s rights to access the shelter safely and in accordance with their gender identity. Then, they withdrew critical data collection and evaluation guidelines for a homelessness prevention initiative targeting LGBTQ youth.

● On March 20, Trump’s Health and Human Services changed two surveys of older Americans, removing a question about sexual orientation. The department uses the National Survey of Older Americans Act Participants to decide how to provide federal funding to groups working with the elderly, and removing the sexual orientation question was the only change made to the survey.

● On March 27, President Trump signs an Executive Order rescinding an Obama order that required federal contractors to provide proof of compliance with federal laws protecting LGBTQ persons in the workplace.

● On March 28, The Trump Administration cancelled a plan for the Census Bureau to collect data regarding sexual orientation and gender identity as part of the next Census. It was Trump’s latest move to erase LGBTQ people from federal surveys and disrupt programs providing direct assistance to the LGBTQ community.

● On April 1, Trump nominated anti-LGBTQ extremist Mark Green as the next U.S. Secretary of the Army to replace Eric Fanning, the first openly gay person to lead a branch of the U.S. military. When a Tennessee state senator, Green supported allowing businesses to discriminate against LGBTQ persons and encouraged Tennessee to deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that such marriages must be allowed. He has said that being transgender is suffering a “disease.” (Green withdrew from consideration for the post on May 5.)

●June was “Pride Month.”  For the first time since President Obama took office, the President of the United States failed to recognize or even mention the commemoration.

● On June 9, President Trump addressed  Faith and Freedom Coalition’s “Road to Majority” and said he said he would “promote and protect family values” and “ protect religious liberty in America.” The Faith and Freedom Coalition is an anti-LGBTQ group that vocally opposes same-sex marriage, and has even joined a campaign against gay Boy Scouts of America leaders, in the name of their interpretation of the Bible. Trump praised Ralph Reed and James Dobson, who opposed same-sex marriage, call homosexuality “preventable and treatable,” and promote ex-gay therapy.

● On June 29, the Trump administration appointed Bethany Kozma, an activist who led a campaign to restrict bathroom access for transgender students, to the office of Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment in the US Agency for International Development.

● President Trumps continued efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act are, in part, a clear threat to the health and well being of the LGBTQ community. Trumpcare hurts LGBTQ individuals in several ways, for example: it guts Medicaid expansion (historically, a lifeline to many LGBTQ persons – 1.8 million LGBTQ adults have Medicaid coverage), it threatens those with HIV/AIDS;  and it will make health insurance unaffordable for lower income LGBTQ persons.

This list is not all inclusive. But it shows there is no reason to believe Mr. Trump’s campaign promises about protecting the rights of LGBTQ persons.

While the LGBTQ community enjoyed years of advances during the Obama administration, it has taken only 6 months to set the movement back and undermine the foundation of positive change we had hoped would remain unshaken.

No one should be surprised by the Trump administration’s determination. The vituperative approach of his administration to the LGBTQ community should not be underestimated.

Those who ignore the history of Mr. Trumps first six months and do nothing, may be forced to repeat it, over, and over, and …. RESIST.

Posted: July 26, 2017

Senate health care bill is obscene, morally indefensible; and oh, bad for my clients and Kansas

After a review of the Senate’s latest proposal for repeal and revision of the Affordable Heath Care Act (“Obama Care”), it is clear the bill will be bad for all of my clients. For the record, it will also be bad for Kansas.
Some argue government should not be in the business of providing health care. The argument makes no sense. If it were true, no government would provide universal health care. But, the opposite is true. All industrialized nations, with the exception of the United States, implement some form of universal health care. Good health, and by extension health care, is a human right.
Despite changes in the earlier Senate effort, the new bill is essentially the same as the old bill in that it will make the poor poorer and the rich richer. And, while it is so easy to say that, it is important to stress the middle class, the majority my clients, will suffer under this proposal as well. A government of the rich, by the rich, and for the rich, where there is no sense of social responsibility, is obscene and immoral. There really is no other way to view it.
Kansas has one Senator, Jerry Moran, who has not taken a stand on this bill. I encourage all my clients to contact Senator Moran as quickly as possible to encourage him to vote no. Ironically, there is more time to do this because Senator John McCain is absent from Washington due to his health care issues.
While I doubt any reasoned argument would change Senator Pat Roberts’s opinion or determination to vote for the bill, he should be told that Kansans do not support this effort to harm Kansans. Everyone should let Senator Roberts know his position on this issue is morally wrong.
Some of the reasons I oppose the Health Care Security And Freedom Act Of 2017:
●Those in their 60s can be charged 5 times or more what folks in their 20s are charged for the same coverage.
●As a result of new caps on aid to states, folks in nursing homes receiving support form Medicaid face reductions in support and the risk that they will be refused care with no viable options for living spaces.
●Medicaid covers at least 1.8 million lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender adults including 31 percent of LGBTQ adults living with a disability and 40 percent of LGBTQ adults with incomes under 250 percent of the federal poverty level. An estimated 560,000 LGBTQ adults will lose coverage if Medicaid expansion is ended.
●Removal of the mandate for health insurance coverage is predicted to mean that healthy folks won’t buy insurance forcing premiums up for those who decide to maintain coverage for themselves and their families.
●Elimination of funding for Planned Parenthood would result in loss of contraceptive assistance and education, testing for sexually transmitted diseases, and HIV/Aids treatment and counseling.
●The bill will allow sales of reduced coverage insurance plans that will give some folks the sense they are covered, but will in reality mean they pay far more for health care than they would under the existing law. Services that are now required, but wouldn’t be under the new law include vital medical services such as mental health care; treatment for conditions such as cancer; and maternity care.
●The much-loved regulation about pre-existing coverage remains, but states could waive other insurance rules that could weaken protections for medical conditions, such as the basic benefit package and the minimum payments insurers must make toward medical bills.
●Loss of required coverage for mental health and substance abuse issues would seriously impact the LGBTQ community where some studies show the need for depression, eating disorder, drug abuse treatment and general mental health counseling is twice the need of the heterosexual community.
●Middle-income families (most of my clients) — those making between $50,000 and $75,000 a year — would lose an average of $150 when the tax cuts and benefit cuts are combined. Families making less than $10,000 annually would lose more than$2,500 in annual benefits under the bill, once the plan is fully phased in. Proponents of the plan claim there are tax cuts for the poor, but fail to point out that
the cuts would be overshadowed by increased in health care costs for those same folks.
●Families making more than $1 million a year (none of my clients) would get tax cuts averaging about $50,000, according to an analysis released by two nonpartisan research groups, the Health Policy Center and the Tax Policy Center.
●If passed, the number of uninsured Kansas adults and children would jump from 343,000 now to 463,000 in five years.
●Health economists estimate the Senate bill could lead to 208,500 additional deaths by 2026 due to loss of coverage or reductions in Medicaid assistance.

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