Lawmakers in Kansas and Oklahoma passed bills this week chipping away at marriage equality, approving legislation that would allow child-placement agencies to refuse placements based on their religious beliefs — such as discriminating against same-sex couples — without endangering state funding.
In Oklahoma, Senate Bill 1140 passed both the Senate (33-7) and the House (56-21) on Thursday. Notably, the House held no discussion or debate of the legislation despite Democratic lawmakers “literally standing and shouting and refusing to sit down” as the bill was brought up. One Democratic lawmaker was almost removed from the floor for refusing to take his seat.
The abomination of process & justice in the OK House of Reps makes me weep for democracy. The priorities of bigotry and hate, under the guise of religious freedom, are truly heartbreaking. I hope this is not the Oklahoma Standard they keep referring to. @KOCOBret @nytimes
— Cory Williams (@repcorywilliams) May 3, 2018
Kansas lawmakers also jumped through a few hoops to keep their bill alive at the last minute. Indeed, though the measure had previous been proposed as House Bill 2481, its language was substituted into Senate Bill 284, which the House approved Thursday night 63-58. It then had to go back to the Senate for reconciliation, and the Senate approved it 24-15 at 1:51 Friday morning.
Proponents of bills in both states argue that they have nothing to do with discriminating, but are just about protecting religiously affiliated adoption agencies.
Kansas Gov. Jeff Coyler (R), who has already promised to sign the measure into law, said in a statement early Friday that the bill “increases the opportunities for needy children to find loving homes.” Oklahoma Senate Majority Floor Leader Greg Treat likewise insisted the legislation in his state is necessary “to keep churches and faith-based organizations from being discriminated against.”
Some proponents were a bit more honest about the bills’ intentions. Kansas State Sen. Steve Fitzgerald (R), for instance, said the state’s legislation was important for protecting civilization from declining because of the gay agenda. “‘There is no homosexual agenda.’ I was told that…and now we find out there is an agenda,” he said. “And what was once tolerated is now becoming dominant and is intolerant. Totally intolerant.”
The Catholic Conferences in both states warned that without the bills’ passage, they would be forced to stop offering adoption services altogether. Conservative advocates in both states also indicated that other agencies considering offering child placement services have been holding out over fears they wouldn’t be able to discriminate against same-sex couples.
The reality is that in both cases, these religious organizations are holding children hostage and asking for the right to discriminate as their ransom.
Children who need homes are better off if there are more families available to place them with, whether that’s with same-sex couples, non-Christian families, single parents, or any other family singled out for discrimination. It does nothing to benefit those children for the state to fund agencies that are ruling out placement opportunities for such arbitrary reasons.
Moreover, as the Human Rights Campaign points out, LGBTQ youth are over-represented in the foster care system, thanks in large part to family rejection. By entrusting openly anti-LGBTQ organizations with finding families for them, it makes it all the more likely that they’ll only face more rejection.
Catholic Charities has shut down adoption services elsewhere — such as Massachusetts, Illinois, and the District of Columbia — to avoid serving same-sex couples. There’s been no evidence that the closures had any impact on those locations’ abilities to continue placing children with families. The only change was that taxpayers were no longer subsidizing discrimination in the process.