TOPEKA, Kan. – Adoption and foster care organizations contracting with Kansas welfare officials would be allowed to refuse placements to gay and lesbian couples based on religious beliefs under a bill that has passed the Senate.
The bill that passed Thursday on a 28-12 vote now heads to the House, where nearly identical legislation has also been introduced, The Kansas City Star reported .
"It's sick discrimination. And these are people who can love and adopt children and are doing so. So to say it is not discriminatory, I beg to differ," said Sen. Barbara Bollier, R-Mission Hills.
Opponents also expressed fear that the bill could result in fewer adoptions. In other parts of the country, the American Civil Liberties Union has taken adoption agencies to court over similar policies. ACLU of Kansas says it would be willing to do so as well.
But supporters of the bill said it is needed to attract more organizations to help in adoptions. The bill would simply put existing practice into law, supporters said.
Some senators took offense with Bollier's comments and saw them as an attack on Catholicism, which opposes same-sex marriage. Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, said the legislation would protect Catholic Charities and other religiously affiliated groups.
"It is not a discriminatory bill. This is the right thing to do," Wagle said.
The legislation would prohibit Kansas Department for Children and Families and other parts of state government from denying contracts to agencies that refuse placements on religious grounds. Agencies also could not be denied licenses because of a refusal to make placements.
The legislation would not apply to DCF's case management contractors, KVC and St. Francis Community Services. That allows DCF to require its case management contractors to place with LGBT couples.
A different version of the bill would have exempted only the current case management contractors. The bill the Senate passed would apply the exemption to future contractors as well.
DCF supports the bill. It has said that passing the bill provides an opportunity for some organizations that have had concerns in the past to work with the state. DCF Secretary Gina Meier-Hummel has also promised that the agency will not discriminate. But some senators indicated they were disappointed in Meier-Hummel's support of the bill.
"Many same-sex families have not had the same freedom of what someone termed traditional families because they haven't been allowed to be foster parents in some cases. There are some inequities in the system," said Sen. Lynn Rogers, D-Wichita.
Information from: The Kansas City Star, http://www.kcstar.com