The Kentucky Child Services Agency is refusing to sign a contract that would allow same-sex couples to foster and adopt children.
One of Kentucky’s largest child welfare agencies is refusing to sign a state contract that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, endangering the state’s 50-year-plus relationship.
Sunrise Children’s Services has ties to the Kentucky Baptist Convention and has a history of caring for Civil War orphans. The Baptist Convention, formerly known as Kentucky Baptist Homes for Children, has over 2,400 churches and 600,000 members. Sunrise has refused to sign the deal because it considers homosexuality to be a sin.
The state has given a deadline of June 30 for Sunrise to respond, and if the agency does not comply by that date, the state has threatened to discontinue placing children with it. The state also covers 65 percent of the agency’s costs, with the balance coming from private donations. Sunrise claims to look after approximately 800 kids.
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It’s part of a larger battle in states and courts over religious liberty and LGBTQ rights, including whether businesses can refuse to provide services for same-gender marriages. A judgment by the United States Supreme Court in a Pennsylvania case, which is considering a denial by Philadelphia Catholic Social Services to cooperate with same-sex couples as foster parents, could be significant in the Kentucky case.
Sunrise executives are concerned that the contested language in the Kentucky contract may force them to violate deeply held religious values by supporting same-sex couples as foster or adoptive parents. The provision’s supporters consider it as a critical safeguard against discrimination.
Child welfare activists are concerned that closing Sunrise, which also provides residential treatment programs, will put even more on on a state system that is already struggling to meet demand. Kentucky regularly has amongst of the highest rates of child abuse in the country.
Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates, stated, “You can’t flip from losing such a big source of child welfare services…and not expect some degree of disruption.”
Sunrise supporters claim the organization is being targeted by a political correctness campaign. Allowing exclusions to the LGBTQ-inclusive clause, according to critics, would legalize discrimination.
“It’s ok if Sunrise doesn’t want to follow it. They shouldn’t have access to state funds, contracts, or children in the care of the state, according to Chris Hartman, executive director of the Fairness Campaign. This is a condensed version of the information.