Metro Weekly

LGBTQ groups push back against Kansas adoption discrimination bill

Bill would allow agencies to refuse to place children with certain parents based on religious objections

Kansas State Capitol – Credit: Rough Tough, Real Stuff/flickr

LGBTQ groups and child welfare organizations are urging lawmakers in Kansas to oppose to a bill that would allow adoption and foster care agencies to refuse to place children with LGBTQ individuals or same-sex couples.

The Kansas Senate passed a version of the bill in March, but the bill fell five votes short in the House of Representatives after many moderate or suburban Republicans expressed concerns that the legislation would facilitate discrimination against same-sex couples and other prospective parents whose lifestyles could deemed “objectionable” by child placement agency employees.

Since the bill’s failure, Gov. Jeff Colyer (R) and the Catholic Church have placed immense pressure on lawmakers, demanding that they pass protections that would exempt agencies from having to place children with certain parents, in violation of their religious beliefs. 

Additionally, Gina Meier-Hummel, the secretary of the Kansas Department for Children and Families, has expressed support for the religious protections, which she argued will encourage greater numbers of agencies, particularly those that are religiously-based, to participate in placing children. At the same time, Meier-Hummel has insisted that she will have “zero tolerance” for anti-LGBTQ discrimination.

Other supporters, including Elizabeth Kirk, a former contributor to the National Reviewwho penned an op-ed in the Kansas City Star, contend that placing the protections into law only upholds the status quo, as agencies have been allowed to turn away prospective parents for years, dating back to well before Kansas was forced to recognize legal same-sex marriages.

In response to the pressure being placed on House lawmakers, some of the country’s top child welfare organizations, in conjunction with the Human Rights Campaign and Equality Kansas, have signed onto a letter explaining why they oppose the adoption bill. 

Signatories to the letter include the Child Welfare League of America, the North American Council on Adoptable Children, the National Center for Adoption and Permanency, Foster Club, Voice For Adoption, Foster Adopt Connect, Kansas Appleseed, the Children’s Alliance of Kansas, and the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas.

“This bill — HB 2481 — would, as amended by the Senate, make it harder for kids to find foster and adoptive families by creating a license to discriminate — that is, allowing child welfare service providers to accept government funds but refuse to work with LGBTQ individuals, same-sex families, or other qualified prospective parents who don’t meet their religious criteria,” the letter reads. 

“Making a placement in the best interest of each child should be the state’s primary goal. No one’s interest is served when discriminatory practices are endorsed by the state.”

The LGBTQ and child welfare organizations, who held a press conference on Thursday afternoon at the State Capitol in Topeka, point to at least 75 studies concluding that children raised by LGBTQ parents fare just as well as those raised by opposite-sex parents.

They also note that research shows LGBTQ-identifying children are overrepresented in the foster care system, often due to familial rejection.  As such, these children could be harmed — either from lack of parents willing to foster them, or from being subjected to abuse by those who take them in — if the pool of potential parents is restricted any further.

“This bill is patently discriminatory and opposed by organizations working in the child welfare space,” Ellen Kahn, the director of HRC Foundation’s Children, Youth & Families Program, said in a statement. “HRC and the signatories on this letter urge the Kansas House of Representatives to listen to the voices of the people working on these issues, not those who would seek to discriminate against potential parents based on who they are.”

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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