Views From Kansas: Legislators fumble on adoption bill

What started as an admirable piece of legislation turned into a vessel for discrimination against LGBT couples

Editor’s Note: Views from Kansas is a regular feature that highlights editorials and other viewpoints from across the state.

Lawmakers often face difficult decisions when it comes to casting votes and enacting policies.

Too often, special-interest-driven agendas taint what otherwise would be good legislation. Such was the case with a bill initially designed to improve the adoption system in Kansas — a truly admirable goal.

Unfortunately, it ended up allowing faith-based adoption agencies to reject gay and lesbian couples as prospective parents. Extreme-right legislators took advantage of something positive to make a self-serving, and in this case, hurtful proposal.

It left lawmakers with a quandary: Endorse the bill with the hope it would encourage adoptions in a state desperate for more families to take in children, or reject it because it clearly was discriminatory?

The bill would enable foster or adoption agencies to benefit from state programs even if they don’t work with LGBT individuals. It wouldn’t keep same-sex couples from adopting, but clearly would make it more difficult and unfairly brand some people as unfit to adopt children.

All who favored the bill should have known how offensive it was, and that it would fuel the notion of Kansas as backward and intolerant. Plus, there was nothing to prove a claim of the change luring more adoption agencies to the state.

Ultraconservative Gov. Jeff Colyer still signed it into law last week. Sadly, most southwest Kansas lawmakers also gave it their stamp of approval, no doubt because they saw potential good in encouraging more adoptions.

An outcry on social media zeroed in on Sen. John Doll, I-Garden City, who supported the bill. Now the running mate of independent gubernatorial hopeful Greg Orman, Doll’s voting record understandably has drawn scrutiny statewide.

Critics should know Doll is not a bigot. He’s thoughtful and cares about the people he serves.

But now Doll must help folks in his Senate district and beyond understand the thinking behind his vote, one cast alongside an extreme-right faction eager to demean the LGBT population. Consider remarks from Sen. Steve Fitzgerald, a Leavenworth Republican now running for Congress who actually linked allowing same-sex couples to adopt to the decline of Western civilization.

Such appalling, radical testimony alone should have given reasonable lawmakers pause — and helped them see the need to block blatant, state-sanctioned discrimination.

— Originally published in the Garden City Telegram

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