An adoption battle in Kansas

MARY REICHARD, HOST: It’s Thursday, the 3rd of May, 2018.

Glad to have you along for today’s episode of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher.

Adoption agencies work to match needy children with families.

Different agencies may focus on different priorities.

Let’s say a biological mother wants a married mother and father to adopt her child. Maybe she desires a particular religious upbringing.

Those are the kinds of desires that faith-based adoption agencies try to honor.

But Kansas is on the verge of undermining those agencies. The Adoption Protection Act would protect them, but it’s run into some political trouble in a conservative state.

Listen to Republican Kansas state Senator Barbara Bollier on the senate floor in late March:

BOLLIER: I am fearful that if we open up this to a sincerely held religious belief and say that’s appropriate, we’ll have fewer adoptions. Because if it is true that their sincerely held religious beliefs – they believe in sin- and I just listed off all this sin that seems to be fine, but somehow same-sex marriage is bigger to them. And that is as discriminatory as I have ever seen in my life. It’s sick discrimination. I know bigotry when I see it.

REICHARD: Lynde Langdon is assistant editor for WORLD Digital. She is based in Kansas and is here to discuss the legislation still under consideration this week.

So, Lynde, what is the Adoption Protection Act and what would it change in the state of Kansas?

LYNDE LANGDON, ASSISTANT EDITOR: The act is part of a larger effort to update Kansas adoption law, and what it would do is protect faith-based child placement agencies from any kind of punishment or censorship if they declined to place a child with a gay or lesbian couple because of the agency’s beliefs about marriage. Similar laws have been enacted in a handful of states and really it would change nothing in the state of Kansas as child placement goes right now. It would just codify protections for faith-based agencies, which in some states have had to close or end their affiliations with churches because of laws that could force them to violate their religious beliefs.

Well, what is the status of the bill right now?

LANGDON: The bill passed easily in the Kansas Senate, but when it got to the House, it came up just six votes short. And that’s because 28 Republicans in the House voted against it, which was surprising for many because Republicans have what they call a “trifecta” in Kansas, which is control of the governor’s mansion in both houses of the legislature. So right now the bill is back in a conference committee and its supporters are working to change the language to clarify that this does not in any way restrict LGBT couples’ ability to adopt in the state of Kansas. It’s just protecting the religious liberty of faith-based child-placing agencies. And they’re hoping that they can get that cleared up and get enough support for another vote by May 4th, which is the final day of the legislative session in Kansas.

That’s tomorrow. Well, I’m sure many people are asking why is such an obviously pro-family measure meeting such resistance in a reliably conservative state like Kansas?

LANGDON: Well, Kansas is definitely a very reliably Republican and conservative state, but not all the Republicans in the state agree on every aspect of social policy. And the LGBT lobby has brought in some real heavy hitters to swing votes their way in this Kansas debate. Chad Griffin, who’s the national president of the Human Rights Campaign, which is a very powerful pro-LGBT lobbying organization, gave a press conference in the capital of Topeka and called this bill a hateful bill. And the ACLU has threatened to file suit if the bill passes. And so many Republican legislators that are perhaps not as strong on social issues don’t want to be seen as being bigoted or discriminatory, which is the way that the LGBT lobby is casting the bill. It also appears that there could be some anti-Catholic sentiment among some lawmakers, and this bill has the support of the Catholic church in Kansas and is perceived as being a benefit to them because of Catholic Charities involvement in child placement.

And what effect would the bill’s defeat have on the child welfare system in the state?

LANGDON: Well, Kansas has an extremely over-taxed foster care system. Over the course of four months recently more than 130 kids had to spend the night in foster care providers’ offices after they were separated from their families. And, in fact, 70 kids have completely gone missing from foster care. They don’t know where they are. And so Kansas (start pickup here, audio at end of tape) Kansas appointed a new director of children and family services in December – Gina Meier Hummel– and she actually supports LGBT couples fostering and adopting children, but she also supports this bill because this bill could mean more groups working to place children in homes and that’s something that the state desperately needs.

Lynde Langdon is assistant editor for WORLD Digital. Thanks for the story, Lynde.

LANGDON: You’re welcome.

(AP Photo/Mitchell Willetts) Chad Griffin, president of the Washington-based Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LBGTQ-rights group, speaks to reporters during a news conference, Thursday, April 26, 2018, at the Statehouse, in Topeka, Kan. 

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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