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

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