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Kansas, Oklahoma Face Political Fallout, Potential Legal Action Over LGBT Adoption Bills

Janice Kopper of Wichita, Kansas, who has adopted seven children with her wife, hugs her daughter, Ethel, as they follow testimony against a bill designed to protect faith-based adoption agencies March 21, 2018, at the Statehouse in Topeka, Kansas. (AP Photo/Mitchell Willetts)

Michelle, a Kansas woman who, along with her wife Katie, has adopted three children, told Kansas City’s Fox4 she doesn’t like legislation approved Friday that is intended to protect the right of faith-based adoption agencies to reject LGBT couples for religious reasons.

“Kids need safe homes, loving homes,” Michelle said. “Homes with consistent care, consistent structure and none of those are exclusive to heterosexual families or families of a certain faith.”

Elizabeth Kirk, another adoptive mother in Kansas, said Michelle and her wife have nothing to worry about.

“This is not targeted at them (same-sex couples),” Kirk said. “This is really a defensive measure to protect Catholic and other faith-based organizations to allow them to continue to serve.”

Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer promised to sign the legislation, which was approved Friday by the state’s legislature.

The fate of similar legislation that received final legislative approval last week in Oklahoma is not as sure. Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R) has not said whether she will sign the law and a gay-rights group is promising a lawsuit against the legislation.

The Oklahoma bill to make sure faith-based adoption and foster-care agencies can refuse to serve gay parents could become a 2018 election issue.

However, in Kansas, it looks like clear sailing for the legislation.

“Catholic Charities and other adoption agencies are key to the fabric of our communities. I look forward to signing this bill because it increases the opportunities for needy children to find loving homes,” Colyer said in a statement early Friday.

JoDee Winterhof, senior vice president of policy and political affairs at the Human Rights Campaign, told the Wichita Eagle the legislation discriminates against gays and would harm the “reputation of the Sunflower State.”

Sen. David Haley (D) agreed with Winterhof. He called the legislation the “vampire that just won’t die,” and described it as a “regressive, discriminatory” law that is meant to correct a problem that does not exist.

Republican Sen. Steve Fitzgerald said the legislation was needed to make sure, if and when Democrats took control of the legislature, that the rights of faith-based adoption agencies were protected.

“‘There is no homosexual agenda.’ I was told that,” Fitzgerald said. “And now we find out there is an agenda. And what was once tolerated is now becoming dominant and is intolerant.”

Eric Teetsel, president of Family Policy Alliance of Kansas, supported HB 248, also known as the Adoption Protection Act. He said faith-based adoption and foster-care agencies had been forced out of business in several states where governments said, “You’re either going to do your business according to our values, or we’re gonna drive you out of business.”

Teetsel told CBN News that he felt “real joy and relief and thankfulness, too” when he learned the legislature had passed the bill.

“This was a long and arduous battle that we were waging – that had been going on for months with numerous obstacles all along the way,” Teetsel said. “It really felt like spiritual warfare.”

The fight is not over in Oklahoma after final approval in the House of Senate Bill 1140. The debate included the presiding officer in the House threatening to have a member of the lower chamber forcibly removed.

Troy Stevenson, executive director of the gay-rights group Freedom Oklahoma, promised to sue to block Senate Bill 1140 as soon as it came out of that state’s legislature. Stevenson said the group would not be going to court if an amendment that blocked agencies that received public funding from refusing to work with gay couples had been approved.

“Leadership of both houses forced an unneeded, unwanted, and un-American bill onto the governor’s desk. This measure does nothing but keep Oklahoma’s most vulnerable youth out of loving and committed homes,” said Stevenson.

However, Senate Majority Floor Leader Greg Treat (R) said the legislation would not prevent gay couples from adopting. They would just have to work with secular adoption and foster care agencies.

“What the intent is, is [to] provide some modicum of legal protection for those who wish to participate,” Treat told KFOR. “Those who wish to take the risk. Those who wish to put their faith into action.”

At least two political candidates in Oklahoma came down on different sides of the debate.

“Like all fair-minded citizens, I am very concerned about SB 1140, which is essentially state-sponsored discrimination against people who are different,” former state Sen. Connie Johnson, a Democrat running for governor, told News OK.

But pastor Dan Fisher, a former state senator running for the Oklahoma GOP’s gubernatorial nomination, said adoption agencies ought to be able to “practice what they believe without being forced to compromise their beliefs.”

The Oklahoma SB 1140 debate also had the unintended consequence of persuading Sen. Treat to take social media off his phone, which he described as “freeing.”