Metro Weekly

Newspaper ads highlight business community’s opposition to anti-gay Kansas adoption law

The bill would allow adoption agencies to reject same-sex couples

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

LGBTQ advocates have taken out two full-page ads in Kansas newspapers highlighting the business community’s opposition to an anti-gay adoption bill.

The bill, currently making its way through the Kansas legislature, would allow adoption and foster care agencies to refuse to place children with LGBTQ couples, single parents, or other families whose lifestyle the agency finds “objectionable.”

Credit: Human Rights Campaign.

The ads were taken out by the Human Rights Campaign, Equality Kansas, and the ACLU of Kansas, who hope that opposition from the business community would give lawmakers pause before they approve the bill allowing child placement agencies to discriminate. 

The ads, which appeared in the Topeka Capital-Journal on Tuesday, and will run in the Wichita Eagle on Wednesday, read: “Businesses Oppose a License to Discriminate — Reject HB 2481” and “Keep Kansas Open to All.” The ads also tell readers to “urge lawmakers to reject this discriminatory legislation and put Kansas families over politics” and to “Text ‘All Families’ to 30644.”

“We’re making sure lawmakers know full well the business community has joined fair-minded voices across Kansas in calling for the rejection of this dangerous bill that threatens the state’s reputation, people, and economy,” JoDee Winterhof, senior vice president for policy and political affairs at the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement.

The LGBTQ advocates also note that multiple corporations, including 1-800 Contacts, Airbnb, Amazon, Apple, AT&T, Comcast, Craigslist, DELL, Facebook, General Motors, Hewlett Packard, Microsoft, NerdWallet, and Verizon, oppose the adoption bill.

Several of those companies are members of TechNet, a national network of over 80 technology companies, which recently sent a letter to House Speaker Ron Ryckman and Senate President Susan Wagle voicing their opposition. 

“TechNet is committed to advancing public policies and private sector initiatives that make the U.S. the most innovative country in the world,” the letter reads. “On behalf of our members, we strongly oppose amendments to HB 2481 that would create a license to discriminate for taxpayer funded child placement agencies to refuse to place children with LGBTQ foster or adoptive parents or single parents.”

The TechNet members warn that states that have passed bills attacking members of the LGBTQ community have experienced a backlash due to boycotts and decisions by businesses not to resettle or expand in places without LGBTQ protections.

“Discriminatory legislation would hamper the state’s ability to attract, recruit and retain business and top talent, drive declines in the state’s travel & tourism industry, weaken the states to attract next-generation entrepreneurs and innovators, and make Kansas less competitive for the relocation or expansion of both large and small businesses,” the TechNet letter reads.

“We believe everyone should be treated with dignity and respect, and we are proud of our companies’ track records on creating diverse workforces and inclusive work environments. We respectfully urge you to oppose legislation that would legalize discrimination and undermine our ability to continue to invest and grow in Kansas.”

The Kansas Senate passed an amended version of HB 2481 in March, with changes designed to grant religious exemptions for child placement agencies, even those that receive taxpayer money. But the House later rejected the bill over concerns that it was condoning discrimination, meaning the two chambers must negotiate a compromise in order to ensure the bill passes. The bill has also received support from the head of the Kansas Department of Children and Families.

Similar bills have also been advanced in Colorado and in Oklahoma, where lawmakers are embroiled in an almost identical stand-off between the State Senate and state House of Representatives over whether private agencies who discriminate should receive taxpayer dollars.

But LGBTQ advocates say that any version allowing discrimination is unacceptable.

“No qualified parent should be discriminated against with taxpayer funds for something that has nothing to do with the best interest of the children in desperate need of loving and caring homes,” said HRC’s Winterhof. “It’s crucially important the Kansas House of Representatives reject this license to discriminate and send a powerful message that Kansas remains open for business and welcoming to all.”

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