Kansas Governor-elect Laura Kelly made it one of her first post-election promises to the state's citizens: She will order her Administration to block, to the extent it can, the enforcement of a religious freedom bill passed back in May that protected faith-based adoption agencies from government discrimination.
The incoming Governor, a Democrat, who voted against the law while still in the Senate earlier this year, believes the law allows discrimination against LGBT couples who want to adopt. That view, however, ignores several factors. First, there are plenty of agencies willing to work with same-sex couples. Second, there is a history of government discrimination against faith-based adoption agencies that support the Kansas legislature's concern. Third, the argument ignores the First Amendment's guarantee of the free exercise of religion, which some have relegated to a lower status than state laws concerning discrimination.
Kansas is the seventh state to pass such protective laws for adoption agencies. The laws don't deny the opportunity for LGBT couples to adopt. The adoption/foster care field around the country is filled with a dedicated minority of faith-based agencies who understandably believe that children – including adopted and foster kids – thrive in a home with a married mom and dad. And they don't want to be driven off the playing field by governments that are hostile to religion.
Unfortunately, there is significant history to back up their concerns. Beginning in 2006, faith-based adoption agencies were squeezed out of Boston, Illinois, San Francisco, the District of Columbia, and recently in Buffalo and Philadelphia, all because of a state or local government's elevation of LGBT causes at the expense of religious freedom. By decreasing the number of providers, the backlog of needy children increases.
There's a federal bill languishing in Congress that would protect faith-based agencies around the country. Entitled the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act, it would guarantee that neither the federal nor any state or local government receiving federal funds for child welfare purposes, can punish, discriminate, deny or revoke contracts with faith-based agencies because of their religious beliefs, including beliefs about marriage and children.
These laws are necessary not just to protect religious freedom, but to ensure that needy children can find good families. Promises to thwart such laws reveal a lack of concern for both.