FRANKFORT, Kentucky (AP) – Kentucky signed a contract on Thursday to continue referring teens to a Baptist-related children’s agency that …
FRANKFORT, Kentucky (AP) – Kentucky signed a youth placement contract with a Baptist-affiliated children’s agency Thursday after the Democratic governor’s administration removed LGBTQ anti-discrimination language, which the agency steadfastly refused to sign.
The agreement continues the state’s longstanding relationship with Sunrise Children’s Services, which provides foster care, dormitory, and therapeutic services to children and families. It serves some of the most vulnerable children in a state that has consistently had some of the worst child abuse rates in the country.
These contractual ties had been jeopardized by a cultural conflict that played religious beliefs against the rights of homosexuals. But on Thursday the state cabinet for health and family services announced in an email that it had signed the new one-year contract to continue to place children at Sunrise.
Sunrise attorney John Sheller said the agreement contained language that protects his client’s “righteous religious beliefs”. It reflects what Sunrise has requested, he said, adding that the agency is “grateful that the Commonwealth has decided to obey the law after prolonged uncertainty.”
Sunrise officials say the controversial non-discrimination language forced them to violate deeply ingrained religious principles by sponsoring same-sex couples as foster parents. Sunrise is a member of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, which consists of nearly 2,400 churches. This belief regards homosexuality as a sin.
Proponents of gay rights said abolishing LGBTQ inclusive language would sanction discrimination.
In response to the state’s decision to continue contracting Sunrise, gay rights attorney Chris Hartman said, “It is disappointing and discouraging that they continue to allow this discrimination.” Hartman is the executive director of the Louisville-based Fairness Campaign.
Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear recently admitted that the state agreed to remove LGBTQ anti-discrimination language from the treaty following a US Supreme Court ruling.
In the Pennsylvania case, the Supreme Court sided with a Catholic foster home who said their religious views prevent them from working with same-sex couples as foster parents.
Sheller had said the Supreme Court ruling applied entirely to the Sunrise dispute and warned that if Kentucky did not follow suit, the state would “invite a lawsuit that the governor is certain to lose.”
Hartman on Thursday denied that the Supreme Court ruling had any directional motion, saying that homosexual rights advocates will continue to push for non-discrimination in state contracts.
“We will continue the talks and continue to work to ensure that nobody is discriminated against in government-mandated services,” he said in a telephone interview. “We do not believe that government funds should be used in discrimination efforts.”
Kentucky officials said Thursday that Sunrise has agreed to refer any “service applicants who identify as LGBTQ to another provider with a good reputation” to the state health and family cabinet.
Sheller previously said that Sunrise is already offering to help same-sex couples find other childcare facilities that are “a better fit.” According to Sheller, Sunrise âwillingly and happilyâ takes in LGBTQ adolescents and does not subject children to conversion therapy that attempts to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
Like many other states, Kentucky contracts with private agencies like Sunrise for some of its child welfare services. The Beshear government had given Sunrise a June 30 deadline to sign a new contract and threatened to stop placing children with the agency if they refused. But the governor recently said that children would still be placed at Sunrise.
Sunrise has its roots in caring for orphans in the civil war. It has had treaties with the state of Kentucky for more than 50 years.
“Sunrise has been a haven for injured children since 1869. We are proud that we can now continue to serve as needed,” said Sunrise President Dale Suttles on Thursday. “We are ready to move forward and dynamically be part of the solution.”
The dispute has political consequences. Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, a Republican, and GOP lawmakers had urged the Beshear government to renew the Sunrise Treaty.
In response to Sunrise’s new contract, Cameron said, âI’m delighted to see that the Beshear administration is obeying the law and doing what the governors of both parties have been doing for decades – to work with Sunrise to keep the organization doing the vital work in the May continue ministry of the children of Kentucky. “.”
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