Oklahoma and Kansas License-to-Discriminate Bills Deny Children Loving Families

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May 4, 2018

Late yesterday evening, the Oklahoma legislature passed SB1140, a license-to-discriminate bill that would allow taxpayer-funded child welfare agencies to reject foster or adoptive parents based upon the agency’s religious beliefs.

Not to be outdone, several hours later Kansas legislators passed a similar bill – SB284 (formerly known as HB2481). Both bills are now before the governors of Oklahoma and Kansas awaiting signature.

Currey Cook, Counsel and Director, Youth in Out-of-Home Care Project, Lambda Legal, issued the following statement:

“The Oklahoma and Kansas child welfare systems need loving homes for children in foster care. And children and families in each state deserve to be treated fairly and with dignity. Oklahoma SB1140 and Kansas SB284 do exactly the opposite.

"Both bills give special permission to religiously-affiliated government-funded child welfare agencies to place the agencies’ beliefs above the needs and best interests of children in care and discriminate against parents who are trying to provide a loving home.

“While neither bill explicitly singles out LGBT people, it is clear that both will facilitate and protect the  rejection of LGBT people as foster and adoptive parents, and will convey to LGBTQ kids in the child welfare system in both states the clear message that; ‘there is something wrong with you’.

"Children in state care deserve our best efforts to protect and prioritize them – including LGBTQ kids, who already face unfair treatment and a lack of affirming homes, and kids from diverse religious backgrounds.

“The governors of Oklahoma and Kansas must veto these damaging child welfare bills, not compete to see who will become the first in 2018 to sign discrimination into law and withhold loving homes from vulnerable children. The needs of the child must come first.

To deny qualified parents eager to foster or adopt children in need of loving homes because of their sexual orientation or gender-identity or particular religious belief is not only wrong, but impacts the most vulnerable Kansans and Oklahomans the most."

Lambda Legal asks any youth or adults who have experienced discrimination in Oklahoma’s or Kansas’s child welfare systems to call our Help Desk at 212.809.8585 or complete this online form.

Read Lambda Legal's letter to Governor Fallin of Oklahoma re: SB1140 here.

Read more about Lambda Legal’s work with children in out-of-home care here.