Statehouse candidates on the issues: LGBT couples and adoption in Kansas

Today we’re running the final set of responses to our questionnaire for the area statehouse candidates whose names will be on the primary ballots.

Here’s item number five:

Last session, the legislature approved a bill that allows religion-based adoption agencies to refuse placing children with LGBT couples. Do you support this legislation? Why or why not?

District 17

Rep. Tom Cox (Republican)

Did not respond

Jim Eschrich

I support gay marriage. I also support gay couples adopting. I do, not, however, support forcing religious organizations to arrange adoptions that they find objectionable based on their faith.

District 18

Eric Jenkins (Republican)

I believe the Legislature made an appropriate decision in allowing Religious based organizations to not place adopted children with LGBT couples. You can’t have it both ways on separation of church and state. Progressives throw out separation of church and state regularly when it suits their agenda, but when it does not, they feel they should be able to force religious organizations to bend to their will. I find this issue would be a much larger one if religious organizations were the only source of finding a child for adoption. In fact, LGBT couples have access to a large array of non-religious organizations to find a child in need of parents. I have a gay son, who up to this time has not sought adoption of a child for him and his spouse to raise. If he were to seek out a child to adopt, he has access to a number of sources to do so. If he were to adopt, my wife and I would love to be loving grandparents to his adoptive child.

Cathy Gordon (Republican)

As an entrepreneur myself, I am a strong proponent that a business should be treated fairly, much like a citizen. Businesses are constantly under attack, often for the owners religious beliefs. We have seen many examples of this with Hobby Lobby, and Chic-Fil-A. Neither of these companies refuse to serve citizens for their gender specific identity. Rather the owners take a religious stand for their freedom and beliefs. The state needs to support the personal religious convictions of their citizen and not force them to change by making a law. The businesses I have started all openly serve the LGBT community.

Rep. Cindy Neighbor (Democrat)

I did not support this legislation because it is discriminatory. Not only that, but a non-severability clause from the part of the bill that was good law could be in jeopardy. Holding a bill hostage is not good practice. It means if any of the bill is found to be unconstitutional, then the whole law dies. I do not believe that state funds should be used to support one religious group who does not believe in the LGBT group, mixed marriages, race, or religion or any other bias. This is not going to help children to be adopted in Kansas.

Andy Hurla (Democrat)

Yes, religious freedom is a constitutional right.


District 22

Rep. Nancy Lusk (Democrat)

My reason for voting against the bill was because its use of public money crossed a line by putting taxpayer-funded discrimination into law. Here is how I have explained the issue in emails to my constituents:

Faith-based adoption agencies have been playing an important role in providing adoption services in Kansas for over 60 years and are allowed whatever eligibility parameters they deem important in determining who they think will make good adoptive parents. Under Kansas law, unlike some other states, that criteria remains with each private agency and its board of directors, and there is no active threat in our state by anyone to take that right of the private agencies away. Never the less, the private religious agencies sought the extra protection of a new law to insure they could continue to serve by the same rules into the future.

The proponents had another motive for the legislation that they tried to gloss over. At least one religious adoption agency wanted to be eligible to receive state money through grants that go to agencies that find foster parents and do adoptions, but at the same time still be able to continue their same discretionary practices.

The problem that creates is by receiving money from the state a religious adoption agency will be functioning as an agent of the government, and will no longer be operating as a separate, private entity. When those agencies elect to take on a role of a state contractor providing taxpayer-funded services to the public, they should not be permitted to pick and choose which members of the public they wish to serve.

The criteria practiced by the faith-based agencies falls under the federal legal definition of discrimination and opens the possibility of lawsuits. As an example, Catholic Charities acknowledged in the House Federal and State Affairs Committee hearing that they commonly do not place children in adoptions with single parents, Jews, Muslins and same sex couples, and they are selective about the Protestant faiths of prospective parents they will accept. Under their system, a loving, LGBT grandparent or a stable, welcoming LGBT relative would be deemed unsuitable

At one point in the last days of the session it seemed that there was the real possibility of a compromise between the bill’s proponents and Equality Kansas, an advocacy group for LGBT rights. The compromise would have dropped the use of public money part and just left the “adoption protection” part. Unfortunately, it fell apart, but it shows up the falsehood of the proponents’ initial claim that the bill was just about “adoption protection.” It was about getting the money.

Representative Sydney, a devout Catholic, gave the following insightful observation during the floor debate: There has been a successful federal effort to prohibit any Medicaid recipient from having an abortion because Medicaid is funded with tax payer monies; the rationale is that people who oppose abortion pay into the taxpayer revenue pool and they don’t want their tax contributions used in that way. But if that is to be the accepted approach, shouldn’t we be consistent to be fair? Single and LGTB people pay taxes, too, and do not want their own tax contributions to fund discrimination against them if they seek to be adoptive or foster parents.

There is a severe and chronic shortage of good foster/adoptive homes available. The foster placement system in Kansas is overwhelmed. Discriminating against qualified prospective parents is not going to help us find more homes for the children who need them.

Michael L. Coleman III (Democrat)

Did not respond.

District 29

Peggy Galvin (Republican)

As a lifelong, practicing Catholic, Bishop Miege alumni, and active congregant at Curé of Ars, I support the efforts of Catholic Charities as a non-profit philanthropy, especially as it relates to poverty, and their important work in foster care and adoption. As a private agency, like any other private entity, they should be allowed to conduct business how and with whom they wish. However, at the point where state tax dollars become involved, organizations and businesses should be held to the same non-discrimination standards of any other business involved with state contracts.

James Todd (Republican)

One of the most difficult things in politics is when the legitimate rights of two groups come into conflict with each other. Members of the LGBTQ community that meet the requirements of being carrying, responsible, and stable enough to provide a home for a child in the foster care system should be able to adopt. It is in the best interest of the child to get them out of the state system and into a loving home. At the same time, people of faith have religious tenants calling them to help orphans and the fatherless. Kansas certainly wants individuals that have demonstrated compassion for children in difficult situations to remain involved in the adoption process. If last years legislation shows itself to be a barrier to adoption in the LGBTQ community, then I would support bringing the groups together for a dialogue on how to improve the situation. This ultimately needs to be about the children. Kansans should want children in need of a new family to have as many people as possible helping them find a safe, stable, and loving new home.

District 30

Matthew Calcara (Democrat)

The adoption discrimination bill that was passed not only allows religious adoption agencies to discriminate against LGBT people, it allows them to discriminate against atheists, single people, or anyone who does not agree with their narrow interpretation of Christianity. It is so dangerous precisely because it is written so broadly. It puts the desires of religious fundamentalists ahead of the needs of foster kids.

As a private citizen, I was in the Legislature that day as proponents of the bill spoke. Their arguments were unconvincing, to say the least. As a candidate who would be the first openly-gay member of the Legislature if elected, it should be obvious that I do not support legislation that would take my own civil rights away.

The Kansas Legislature needs to be looking at ways to support foster kids and encourage adoption, not restrict the right to adopt to a select few that pass religious tests.

Brandon Woodard (Democrat)

No. I oppose tax dollars being used to discriminate against Kansans and strongly believe in the separation of church and state, a concept clearly absent in Kansas throughout the recent tenures of Brownback and Colyer. With 7,000 kids in foster care in Kansas, we should be supporting efforts to find them a loving home, not allowing adoption agencies to refuse placing children with LGBT couples. As an openly gay Kansan, I hope to adopt children some day, so this attack on LGBT people is personal to me. Representation matters, and this discriminatory bill is powerful evidence that LGBT people need representation in the Kansas Legislature. As the only Democrat in my race endorsed by LGBT rights organization Equality Kansas, I am uniquely prepared to address this issue in the coming session and believe that we must prevent further anti-LGBT legislation from making it to the floor of the Kansas House.

Wendy Bingesser (Republican)

All adoption agencies are part of the solution to helping increase adoptions in the state of Kansas, which should be the central mission of any adoption bill. Given the troubles at the Department of Children and Families, it is important that the state emphasize and work towards improving our adoption practices. This solution includes faith-based agencies.

The adoption bill largely maintained the previous state policy. The most identifiable result of its passage is that the state adoption policy moved from being an administrative regulation to becoming a state statute. This means that same-sex couples will maintain the same adoption rights that were present before the passage of the legislation. Only 3 of the 30 or so outside adoption agencies in Kansas do not work with same-sex couples for adoptions because they feel it violates their religious beliefs. Maintaining state cooperation with these agencies is still important to the mission of adopting and fostering children.

I will oppose any new policies that place significant burdens on the adoption rights of same-sex couples. All adoptions by opposite-sex couples, same-sex couples, and single-individuals place a child in need into a home. This is the mission that we are trying to accomplish. Any organization that helps in this effort should be considered a valuable partner in this effort.

Colleen Webster (Republican)

I do not support any legislation that discriminates against any Kansans. No religion-based adoption agencies that receive tax dollars should be able to discriminate against any tax payer. It is very difficult to find enough families for foster children. Has anyone considered that some of these teenagers are LGBTQ and would not be welcomed. Some families might shame them or try to “turn” them straight? Does the public realize that if a child has not been placed, they are not attending school? I have friends working in this field who have shared with me that in their experience, same sex couples will go above and beyond to keep a challenging child because they believe in family and want one so badly.

That’ll do it for our primary questionnaire! Thanks to all the candidates for participating