Sunrise Children’s Services, a foster care and adoption agency affiliated with the Baptist church, is refusing to sign a contract with the state of Kentucky mandated for all organizations providing child welfare services in the state. The group says they will punish the children unless they get an exemption to discriminate against LGBTQ couples.
The group is one of the largest service providers for abused and abandoned children in the state – including LGBTQ kids who’ve been thrown out of their homes after coming out.
Sunrise currently has approximately 800 children in their care, but they’re refusing to sign the contract that provides the vast majority of their funding to provide for the kids’ upkeep.
“You cannot pivot from losing such a large provider of child welfare services … and not anticipate some degree of disruption,” Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates, told the Associated Press.
“The state’s position is that it’s going to try to compel Sunrise to sign the same form contract that it uses with secular providers,” Sunrise’s attorney, John Sheller said. “And Sunrise cannot and will not sign that form contract by July 1st or any other date.”
“If Sunrise doesn’t want to abide by that, that’s fine. They shouldn’t have access to state money, state contracts or children in the state’s care,” said Chris Hartman, executive director of the Fairness Campaign, a Louisville-based gay rights advocacy group.
Allegations of religious indoctrination have dogged the group for years and Hartman says that he’s worried “deeply closeted” youth are being psychologically and emotionally damaged by “indoctrination and proselytization.”
Some of the children have been thrown out of their homes by homophobic parents only to be sent to a facility that wouldn’t serve someone like them. The psychological effect of both abandonment and repeated rejection can be devastating for youth.
Sheller called the allegation an “outrageous accusation,” saying the group “willingly and gladly” accepts LGBTQ children while trying to explain why they reject LGBTQ adults. He rejected any insinuations that the group supports conversion therapy meant to turn gay kids straight.
“There are children in Kentucky who are not just working through their trauma, but they’re working through who they are as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender,” Grace Akers, CEO of St. Joseph Children’s Home said. “And for us to celebrate those children, I just think is critical.”
The facility, along with other providers in the state, has signed the contract and supports the rights of LGBTQ people and the welfare of children who need loving homes.
“Gay-lesbian families want to grow their families just like heterosexual families do,” she said.
Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, a case revolving around a Pennsylvania agency, is currently in front of the U.S. Supreme Court with a decision to be announced within weeks. Philadelphia Catholic Social Services also refused to sign a contract that didn’t allow it to discriminate against LGBTQ people and is suing, demanding that the city fork over taxpayer funds to a group that won’t serve all of the citizens.
Several Catholic adoption agencies have closed their doors, rejecting abandoned children in favor of religious beliefs, rather than follow nondiscrimination laws.