Oklahoma & Kansas inch closer to legalizing discrimination in adoptions

LGBTQ Nation

Kansas and Oklahoma bills that would allow religious organizations to discriminate against LGBTQ adoptive parents are still alive.

They’re drawing criticism from national business groups, as well as some adoption agencies.

Yet the Kansas bill is getting strong support from Catholic officials — and the owner of the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs.

The Kansas bill, HB2481, would allow child-placement agencies to refuse placement if it would violate the agency’s “sincerely held religious beliefs.” It’s now in conference committee, and the group Equality Kansas warned Wednesday that it will likely be moving forward.

The Oklahoma bill, SB1140, would allow agencies to discriminate against prospective foster and adoptive parents based on “the agency’s written religious or moral convictions or policies.” This week, the state Senate killed a House amendment that would have prevented agencies that discriminate from receiving state funding, KFOR Oklahoma News 4 reports.

Key proponents of the Kansas legislation are Catholic Charities, the state’s child-welfare director (who had opposed it as interim director) and the state’s Republican governor. Even the owner of the NFL’s Kansas Chiefs, Lamar Hunt Jr., has lobbied for it — while touting tolerance.

“It is only natural and logical that Christian agencies would place children in homes with a married man and woman,” Hunt said in an email to Kansas legislators, the Kansas City Star reports.

“This in no way passes judgment on same-sex couples desiring to do the same. Tolerance is a two-way street, and as believing Christians my wife and I expect you to fight for our right to follow our faith just as you would for someone who prefers another path in life.”

The Kansas City Star also reports that Kansas legislators have fielded calls in support from Catholic priests and parishioners. But such support of discrimination is a contradiction for a number of other Catholics, according to national research from 2017.

Church doctrine says homosexuality as an intrinsic evil, but individual Catholics are also overwhelmingly support of LGBTQ rights.

Related: Here are the 6 worst states for gay & lesbian couples

Opposition advertisements in two Kansas newspapers — the Topeka Capital-Journal and the Wichita Eagle — have made news today. Placed by the Human Rights Campaign, the advertisements included names of national companies also in opposition.

However, the group TechNet, which includes more than 80 members, has said it did not authorize the organization in the HRC ads — though it reiterated its strong opposition to the Kansas bill.

The CEO of FosterAdopt Connect, which does adoption work in Kansas and Missouri, said she is dubious about the legislation.

“They’re solving a problem that doesn’t exist,” Lori Ross told the Kansas City Star. Two-parent heterosexual families can already be licensed in Kansas. The problem isn’t a lack of agencies. “It’s a lack of families,” she said.

In the Lawrence Journal-World, Ross also voiced concerns about how such a law would affect adoptive children who are LGBTQ.

Those children face abuse, even violence, in the state’s foster-care system. She worked with one 11-year-old who died of suicide after struggling with gender identity.

“From that moment on, I have become a passionate advocate for the needs of children in the foster care-system,” Ross said.

And what about current adoptive parents who are LGBTQ? In Oklahoma, mother Kris Williams adopted her son six years ago. She told Oklahoma News 4 TV that the legislation would stop her from growing her family.

“As an LGBTQ community member, I have not added to the problem of our children in custody, but I have been a solution to that problem,” she said.

The intrusion of government into religion is a slippery slope that’s given pause to one Kansas columnist.

Davis “Buzz” Merritt, former editor of the Wichita Eagle who now writes an editorial blog for the newspaper, called out the legislation as religion intrusion upon government.

“When laws elevate one specific religious belief over all others, that’s precisely the ‘establishment of religion’ that the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, for good and historic reasons, bars,” Merritt wrote.

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