Over the past week, the state legislatures in both Kansas and Oklahoma passed bills that will give faith-based adoption agencies the right to refuse to place children with lesbian and gay couples. The Kansas governor has said he will sign the bill, while the Oklahoma governor has not yet made a decision to do so.
The Daily Mail reported that Kansas’ Governor Jeff Colyer, a Catholic, praised his state’s newly passed bill, saying:
“Catholic charities and other adoption agencies are key to the fabric of our communities. I look forward to signing this bill because it increases the opportunities for needy children to find loving homes.”
But LGBT rights leaders had a different point of view about the Kansas bill:
“The gay rights group Human Rights Campaign called the proposed law ‘patently discriminatory’ and urged the governor to veto it.
” ‘This insidious bill will make it harder for kids to find qualified loving homes,’ HRC senior vice president JoDee Winterhof said.
“Business leaders, child welfare advocates, faith leaders and ordinary Kansans have all spoken out against this bill.”
Indeed, Microsoft, Amazon and Google all opposed the bills in both states, according to an Associated Press report. The Washington Blade also listed several professional groups opposing the bills:
“Joining LGBT groups in opposition to the bills are child welfare organizations including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Child Welfare League of America, and the North American Council on Adoptable Children.”
In support of the bills, however, were the Catholic Conferences of both Kansas and Oklahoma. According to IntoMore, the Kansas Catholic Conference had been extremely active in supporting the bill. Moreover, Catholic social service agencies are a significant part of the state’s social safety net:
“As the second-largest provider of social services in the United States, Catholic Charities has an extraordinary amount of bargaining power in Kansas. The nationwide organization operates centers in Atchison, Dodge City, Emporia, Garden City, Great Bend, Kansas City, Lawrence, Leavenworth, Olathe, Overland Park, Salina, St. Joseph, Topeka, and Wichita.
“The nonprofit urged supporters to write letters to their local lawmaker asking them to support SB 284, and it seems the governor was listening.”
The situation is a little different in Oklahoma where secular economics seems to be playing a larger role. The Associated Press reported the unusual political and economic dynamic that had played out there for a while:
“Bills aimed at curtailing LGBT rights have been derailed in the deeply conservative Oklahoma Legislature in recent years as many Republicans grew weary of voting on measures that allow for discrimination against gay people.
“Most of the bills were left to quietly die by failing to meet deadlines, but increasingly many were defeated openly with Republicans casting no votes on the floor or in committees. Those who did were supported by a business community wary of the kind of economic blowback states like Indiana and North Carolina received for passing anti-gay legislation.”
Perhaps these economic pressures will convince Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin not to sign the bill.
While Catholic bishops argue for the freedom to be able to discriminate against lesbian and gay couples, and while politicians worry about economic risks, the sad thing that gets lost in the discussion are two very important Catholic social justice principles: the protection of vulnerable populations, in this case children; and the preservation of the dignity of lesbian and gay people. Bills such as the ones passed will have the detrimental effect of reducing the number of eligible adoptive couples, meaning children would suffer. Similarly, it also means that religious agencies and the state governments are comfortable sending the message that a class of people are second-class citizens. From a faith and justice perspective, both situations are unacceptable.
—Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, May 10, 2018
The Christian Science Monitor: “Oklahoma, Kansas pass legislation allowing religious veto on LGBT adoptions”