TOPEKA, Kan. — Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer signed legislation Friday granting legal protections to faith-based adoption agencies that cite their religious beliefs for not placing children in lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender homes, an action that quickly became an issue as he runs this year to keep his office.
The Republican governor signed the measure during a ceremony at a Christian boys’ home outside Wichita, surrounded by supporters who view it as a religious-freedom measure. But the Democratic Party and one of Colyer’s opponents in the GOP primary immediately criticized him as supporting discrimination.
The new law takes effect July 1.
Under the policy, agencies cannot be barred from providing foster care or adoption services for the state if they refuse to place children in homes violating their “sincerely held” religious beliefs. In Oklahoma, term-limited Republican Gov. Mary Fallin signed similar legislation last week; seven other states have such policies.
Supporters contend that such laws prevent adoption agencies from facing lawsuits over their faith-based placement policies or hostile actions from state officials who disagree with their views. Catholic agencies in California, Illinois, Massachusetts and Washington, D.C., have stopped handling adoptions.
The top administrator at the Kansas Department for Children and Families argued that such a law would encourage faith-based agencies to place more foster children in adoptive homes or to start doing such placements.
“By keeping faith-based adoption agencies in our state, we give more children the opportunity to be adopted,” Colyer said in a statement.