May 18, 2018 at 7:00 pm EDT | by Chris Johnson
Kansas governor signs ‘religious freedom’ anti-LGBT adoption law

Gov. Jeff Colyer (R-Kansas) has signed an anti-LGBT “religious freedom” adoption law. (Photo via Twitter)

Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer has signed anti-LGBT adoption legislation making his state the latest to enact a “religious freedom” law enabling taxpayer-funded agencies to deny placement into LGBT homes.

Colyer signed the legislation, Senate Bill 284, into law on Friday, according to a local media report. The Washington Blade has placed a call in with Colyer’s office seeking confirmation that he signed the bill.

SB 184 enables religious-based adoption agencies in Kansas, which receive taxpayer funds, to deny placement into homes with LGBT parents over “religious objections.” Conceivably, the law could also permit these agencies to subject LGBT children in foster care to widely discredited “ex-gay” conversion therapy.

Kansas was one of two states this year — including Oklahoma — where LGBT rights supporters have sought to prevent “religious freedom” legislation from becoming law. The fight, however, was more focused in Oklahoma because Colyer had indicated he’d sign SB 284 after the Kansas legislature approved the measure. Nonetheless, Gov. Mary Fallin last week the signed her state’s version of the legislation.

JoDee Winterhof, senior vice president of policy and political affairs, said Kansas now joins Oklahoma in being one of two states to enact anti-LGBT laws this year.

“Kansas lawmakers, from the legislature to the governor, are clearly stating that it is more important to them to discriminate against their own constituents than it is to find loving homes for children in need,” Winterhof said. “Make no mistake: this law will harm the kids, families and reputation of this state.”

The bill in Kansas opposed not only by LGBT groups, but major child welfare organizations, including American Academy of Pediatrics, the Child Welfare League of America and the North American Council on Adoptable Children. A group of 50 Kansas-based faith leaders and 39 national and statewide faith organizations also signed a letter in opposition to SB 284.

Masen Davis, CEO of Freedom for All Americans, said in a statement the new Kansas law “will hurt kids in Kansas who are in need of safe, loving homes.”

“It’s dangerous and irresponsible to enact laws that will impact LGBTQ families and kids, and that prevent perfectly qualified same-sex couples and others from starting families,” Davis said. “These types of laws have one purpose, and one purpose only: to advance discrimination against LGBTQ people, no matter the cost.”

But the legislation was backed by organizations supporting Catholic adoption agencies — such as Catholic Charities and the Family Policy Alliance of Kansas — who say these instutitions will have to shut their doors if forced to place children into LGBT homes.

Paul Weber, CEO of Family Policy Alliance, said in a statement his organization is “proud to stand” in support of the new laws in Kansas and Oklahoma, calling them an “important religious freedom victory on behalf of all families.”

“But, shouldn’t every state want to ensure that birth moms and children in need of forever homes have more choices?” Weber added. “Despite what some say, protecting faith-based adoption agencies doesn’t change current law, but it does ensure that all adoption providers are welcome in the states.”

Kansas is the ninth state to enact an adoption law enabling agencies to deny placement into homes over religious objections. The other states are Alabama, Michigan, Mississippi, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, Virginia and Oklahoma. The American Civil Liberties Union is challenging the Michigan law in federal court and a state LGBT group in Oklahoma has said a lawsuit is forthcoming in that state.

Currey Cook, counsel and director for Lambda Legal’s Youth in Out-of-Home Care Project, said in a statement the laws are “incredible and unconscionable” and hurt than more just LGBT families.

“Make no mistake: This is not simply about the sexual orientation or gender identity of prospective foster or adoptive parents,” Cook said. “In South Carolina, a government-funded funded foster care agency cited a Jewish family’s faith in rejecting their involvement in the agency’s programming, and a Catholic agency is suing the City of Philadelphia to block enforcement of that city’s nondiscrimination ordinance.”

The new adoption law isn’t the only anti-LGBT law on the books in Kansas. In 2016, former Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback — who’s now the Trump’s administration’s U.S. ambassador at large for religious freedom — signed into law a measure allowing student organization’s at public universities in the state to deny membership to LGBT students.

Rachel Laser, CEO of Americans United for Separation of Church & State, said in a statement the new Kansas anti-LGBT law “does a great disservice to kids in care.”

“Those children deserve loving, stable homes, and providing them should be Kansas’ first priority,” Laser said. “Senate Bill 284 works against that principle by allowing state-funded agencies to turn away prospective parents – in the name of religion – because they’re a same-sex couple, interfaith, previously divorced or the ‘wrong religion.’ This law is indefensible.”

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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