DISCRIMINATION IN KANSAS: Legislature Sends Anti-LGBTQ Child Welfare Bill to Governor’s Desk

by Nick Morrow

HRC urges Governor Jeff Colyer to veto this bill.

HRC blasted the Kansas legislature for passing a patently discriminatory bill, SB 284 (known until this afternoon as HB 2481), which would create a license to discriminate with taxpayer funds against LGBTQ foster or adoptive parents, single parents, or other qualified families. The bill passed out of a conference committee today, was approved by both chambers and is now headed to the governor’s desk. HRC urges Governor Jeff Colyer to veto this bill.

SB 284 could have a sweeping, harmful impact in child welfare services by enabling discrimination against LGBTQ people, same-sex couples, interfaith couples, single parents, married couples in which one prospective parent has previously been divorced, or other qualified parents to whom an agency has an objection. The biggest barrier to placing children with families is a lack of qualified prospective parents; having the state give contractors and subcontractors a license to discriminate, thereby limiting the pool of prospective parents for no legitimate reason, is unconscionable and an unacceptable use of taxpayer dollars.

“To be clear: SB 284 is a ‘license to discriminate’ that targets youth, first and foremost,” said JoDee Winterhof, senior vice president of policy and political affairs. “This insidious bill will make it harder for kids to find qualified loving homes and it could be used to discriminate against LGBTQ Kansans. Business leaders, child welfare advocates, faith leaders and ordinary Kansans have all spoken out against this bill because they understand that needless, discriminatory bills only serve to harm Kansans and the reputation of the Sunflower State. Now, we urge Gov. Colyer to do what the legislature could not and stop this shameful bill from becoming law.”

Many of the country’s top child welfare organizations have spoken out in opposition of the bill, including the Child Welfare League of America, North American Council on Adoptable Children, National Center for Adoption and Permanency, Foster Club, Voice For Adoption, Foster Adopt Connect, Kansas Appleseed, and Children's Alliance of Kansas. This bill most harms children in the system who are awaiting placement in qualified, loving homes and are instead denied placement with a family due to a lack of prospective parents. Experts agree that child welfare services should be guided by the overarching principle that guides all family law: all determinations should be in the best interest of the child. SB 284 clearly violates this principle.

HRC recently released a report, titled Disregarding the Best Interest of the Child: License to Discriminate In Child Welfare Services, detailing the harms of efforts to write anti-LGBTQ discrimination by child welfare agencies into law. Statistics suggest that an estimated two million LGBTQ adults in the U.S. are interested in adoption, but the LGBTQ community often remains an untapped resource when it comes to finding families for children and youth in foster care.

Research consistently shows that LGBTQ youth are overrepresented in the foster care system, as many have been rejected by their families of origin because of their LGBTQ status, and are especially vulnerable to discrimination and mistreatment while in foster care. SB 284 will only exacerbate these challenges faced by LGBTQ young people.