(HRW) – In 2018, dozens of anti-LGBT bills have been introduced in state legislatures across the US. Remarkably, none of them have become law – until now.
Over the past week, Governor Mary Fallin of Oklahoma and Governor Jeff Colyer of Kansas have signed laws allowing state-funded adoption and foster care agencies to follow their religious beliefs when placing children with families.
Proponents of the bills clearly signaled that they were designed to prevent agencies from having to place kids with LGBT parents, who are six times more likely than heterosexual couples to foster and four times more likely to adopt. Now agencies in these states can effectively derail adoptions for LGBT parents. But the language in the bills is so sweeping that it seems to give agencies even wider discretion to disfavor potential parents based on their marital status, religion, race, or other characteristics.
Even without these laws, nobody is forcing agencies in Oklahoma and Kansas to serve LGBT parents; the states are among the 42 states in the US that do not have laws on the books protecting LGBT people seeking to adopt or foster children. These laws are not narrow exceptions to nondiscrimination protections, but a license to discriminate that harms parents and kids alike.
The state’s overriding concern in matters of adoption and foster care should always be the best interest of the child. Laws that embolden providers to discriminate against loving, qualified parents have been a giant step in the wrong direction.
Oklahoma and Kansas should repeal these laws. But if lawmakers truly believe what they say about these laws being narrow protections for religious agencies, they should have no hesitation about passing nondiscrimination laws next year. When lawmakers rush to pass “exemptions” to nondiscrimination laws that don’t actually exist, without protecting the rights of people who are likely to be harmed, it should be called out for what it is – discrimination.