Metro Weekly

Kansas and Oklahoma lawmakers approve anti-gay adoption bills

Veto seems less likely in Kansas, but may still be possible in Oklahoma

Gov. Jeff Colyer – Photo: Sgt. Zach Sheely, U.S. Army National Guard; and Gov. Mary Fallin – Photo: Michael Vadon.

Lawmakers in Kansas and Oklahoma have passed bills that allow adoption and foster care agencies to refuse to place children with “immoral” same-sex couples.

In both states, the Senate approved an adoption measure that would allow private agencies to continue receiving taxpayer funds even if they discriminate against prospective parents, while House members were opposed to such a concept.

But both bills emerged from conference committee with provisions that allow agencies to refuse to place children with people if they believe doing so violates an agency’s moral tenets or religious beliefs.

Both chambers of both legislatures voted to approve the final versions of the bills, sending them to the desks of Gov. Jeff Colyer and Gov. Mary Fallin, respectively. If signed into law, they would become the first pieces of anti-LGBTQ legislation to pass a state legislature this year.

LGBTQ advocates have been vocal in their opposition to both bills, which they argue only serves to dilute the pool of adoptive or foster parents willing to provide homes for children in state care. They also note that a disproportionate number of LGBTQ-identifying children usually end up in foster care, and can potentially be subjected to conversion therapy if they are only placed with parents who hold beliefs identical to those espoused by the placement agencies.

“To be clear: SB 284 is a ‘license to discriminate’ that targets youth, first and foremost,” JoDee Winterhof, the senior vice president of policy and political affairs at the Human Rights Campaign, said of the Kansas bill. “This insidious bill will make it harder for kids to find qualified loving homes and it could be used to discriminate against LGBTQ Kansans. Business leaders, child welfare advocates, faith leaders and ordinary Kansans have all spoken out against this bill because they understand that needless, discriminatory bills only serve to harm Kansans and the reputation of the Sunflower State.”

Winterhof also aimed her fire at Oklahoma’s bill, calling it “shameful.”

“Oklahoma’s legislators are throwing kids under the bus to create a ‘license to discriminate’ against qualified, loving prospective parents,” she said in a statement. “This bill does nothing to improve the outcomes for children in care. It shrinks the pool of prospective parents and is a blatant attempt to discriminate against LGBTQ Oklahomans.”

HRC, and other LGBTQ groups, are calling on both Colyer and Fallin to veto the measures. But Colyer has been much more outspoken and pushed, along with the head of Kansas’ Department of Children and Families, for passage of the anti-LGBTQ adoption bill.

In comparison, Fallin has not taken a firm position on Oklahoma’s bill, and members of Freedom Oklahoma have been in contact with her office explaining their objections to it. Troy Stevenson, the executive director of Freedom Oklahoma, previously told Metro Weekly that there was a small chance that Fallin would veto the measure if it allowed private agencies to receive taxpayer dollars while actively discriminating against people.

“Leadership of both houses forced an unneeded, unwanted, and un-American bill onto the Governor’s desk,” Stevenson said in a statement. “This measure does nothing but keep Oklahoma’s most vulnerable youth out of loving and committed homes. It is our greatest hope that Governor Fallin will show the world that the Oklahoma Standard still exists and that we do not put political posture over the health and safety of Oklahoma’s children. Governor Fallin, please veto this hateful bill.”

Kasey Suffredini, the president of strategy at Freedom for All Americans, also decried the passage of both bills. 

“At a moment when nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people are advancing in states like Alaska and New Hampshire, our opponents are digging in and targeting our community where it hurts the most: LGBTQ youth in the state’s care and the ability of same-sex parents to start a family,” she said.

“Opponents of LGBTQ equal treatment have once again demonstrated their blatant disregard for the collateral damage caused by bills like these in Kansas and Oklahoma as they continue to advance their increasingly unpopular and mean-spirited agenda,” Suffredini added. “We will not allow our hard-fought progress to be chipped away by these dangerous attacks, and we will fight back until all LGBTQ families are protected from discrimination.”

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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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