Kansas and Oklahoma passed legislation that protects the right of religious adoption agencies to choose not to place children with same-sex couples.
Both state legislatures voted on their respective bills on Thursday, though only Kansas’ governor has expressed overt support for the legislation, according to The Associated Press. The bills are necessary to ensure religious adoption agencies were not forced to shut down for adhering to their deeply held beliefs, legislation supporters argued. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops advocated for similar legislation on Tuesday at a federal level, saying the forced closure of religious adoption agencies across various states has displaced thousands of children and violated birth mothers’ right to choose to work with agencies that share their values for the good of their children.
“This is a matter of activist groups who don’t like certain religious beliefs, and they want to use the power of the government to crush people [who] operate according to those religious beliefs,” Kansas Catholic Conference director Michael Schuttloffel said, according to AP.
Legislation opponents argued the bills are merely an attack on the LGBT community and even alleged the laws would allow adoption agencies to discriminate against single parents and Jews.
“If you’re a single person, or a gay person, or a divorced person, or you’re Jewish, then you better think twice before you call,” Foster Adopt Connect President Lori Ross said, according to AP.
Ross argued against the Kansas bill, saying it would restrict an already limited supply of eligible families for the placement of children.
TechNet, which represents Apple, Google, and other tech giants, sent a letter to the states’ legislatures, urging them to oppose the bills, arguing such legislation could somehow hurt their states’ economies.
States without such legislation, however, have experienced massive closures of religious adoption agencies. Adoption agency Catholic Charities has been forced to cease operations in Massachusetts, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. The closure of religious adoption agencies as a result of laws making it illegal to refuse to place children in LGBT homes due to religious objection has caused the displacement of 3,000 foster children in Illinois alone, which is more than 20 percent of that state’s foster children, according to USCCB.
The legislation could encourage religious adoption agencies to work more closely with the state — given their overt protections — and thereby alleviate the foster care system of the growing number of children placed in it each year, Kansas bill advocates said.
The two states now join Texas, Michigan, South Dakota, Virginia and Alabama in having laws that protect religious adoption agencies.
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