Kansas lawmakers are considering legislation that would prevent the state from forcing faith-based adoption agencies to place children into homes that violate their religious beliefs.
Supporters say the legislation would protect religious liberties and encourage faith-based groups to provide adoption services.
Critics predict the bill would lead to discrimination against would-be LGBT parents and face legal challenges.
Two identical bills, each dubbed the Adoption Protection Act , are under consideration in House and Senate committees, and each panel finished two days of hearings Wednesday.
The bills would allow faith-based agencies contracting with the Department of Children and Families to deny adoptions to applicants based on sexual orientation or gender identity without fear of punishment from the state.
Republican Representative Susan Humphries of Wichita co-sponsors the bill and said a primary purpose behind it is to get Kansas a step ahead of potential lawsuits that have been filed against faith-based agencies in other states.
"In some states just the threat of legal action has caused agencies to shut down because they can't afford to fight the battle," said Austin Vincent, a Topeka attorney who supports the bill.
Tom Witt, lobbyist for the LGBT-rights group Equality Kansas, said the bill would allow private entities to receive taxpayer dollars even as they discriminate against same sex Kansans.
"These private agencies want to turn families away that don't meet their religious definition of what a family is," Witt said. "In other words, Jesus told them we're not good enough."
Several states have passed similar legislation, recently including Alabama, South Dakota and Texas. Despite the new Texas law, two female Texas A&M professors sued in February , alleging they were turned away from adopting refugee children on religious grounds from an agency receiving public funds.
In other parts of the country, the American Civil Liberties Union has taken adoption agencies to court over similar policies. ACLU of Kansas says it would be willing to do so as well.
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