(WB) A host of LGBT-related bills are making their way to the desks of governors around the country and could have a major impact on LGBT Americans if signed into law.
Anti-LGBT bills that would enable taxpayer-funded adoption agencies to deny placement to LGBT homes over religious objections are heading toward passage in two states, but bans on widely discredited “ex-gay” conversion therapy are moving forward elsewhere and one state is considering a transgender non-discrimination bill.
Two states that are on the cusp of enacting anti-LGBT adoption bills are Oklahoma and Kansas:
- In Oklahoma, both chambers of the legislature passed versions of anti-LGBT adoption bills that are set for consideration in conference committee before final approval and transmission to Gov. Mary Fallin.
- In Kansas, the Senate attached the bill to House Bill 2481, a non-LGBT related bill approved by the House. The House refused to concur with the amended bill, so the bill was sent to conference. The measure could be dropped or included in the final package in conference committee, but there’s also a renewed effort to convince the House to accept the amended bill.
Cathryn Oakley, state legislative director for the Human Rights Campaign, said passage of the bills would place at risk not just LGBT people seeking to adopt a child, but other potential parents to whom adoption agencies may have objections, such as single mothers, interracial couples or couples where one parent has been divorced.
“These bills would really artificially limit the pool of prospective parents who are able to adopt,” Oakley said. “Given that there are all these children who need adopting, and there are all of these LGBTQ adults who are interested in adoption, it seems really counter-intuitive to allow for a government agency to refuse to interact with different kinds of parents for no reason other than to allow them to discriminate.”
Oakley added the bills are also constitutionally suspect because states have obligations under the Establishment Clause and the Equal Protection Clause to treat families equally under the law and “not to be privileging some religious beliefs for other religious beliefs.”
“They don’t get to delegate those responsibilities away when they contract with an agency, so these agencies are doing the state’s work on taxpayer dollars, they also then inherit those obligations to treat people equally under the law,” Oakley said.
Joining LGBT groups in opposition to the bills are child welfare organizations including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Child Welfare League of America and the North American Council on Adoptable Children.
One letter signed by these groups says the Oklahoma bill would result in harm by “excluding any single class of potentially qualified parents (such as LGBTQ people)” from the pool of potential parents.
Supporters of the bills are organizations supporting Catholic adoption agencies — such as Catholic Charities, the Catholic Conference of Oklahoma and the Kansas Catholic Conference — who say these agencies will have to shut their doors if forced to place children into LGBT homes.
Another anti-LGBT adoption bill also advanced to the floor of the Senate this week in Colorado. However, the Republican-majority chamber rejected the legislation, Senate Bill 241, by a 16-19 vote thanks to a united Democratic caucus and two Republicans who broke with their party on the legislation.
Daniel Ramos, executive director of One Colorado, said in a statement the defeat of the anti-LGBT adoption bill was a win for his state.
“This was another installment in a series of horrific bills we have seen this session that would take Colorado backwards in the areas of LGBTQ equality, and its defeat today is a victory for the people of Colorado,” Ramos said.
As these anti-LGBT adoption bills are considered, other measures seeking to ban widely discredited therapy aimed at changing an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity are also advancing:
- In Hawaii, the state legislature this week sent to Gov. David Ige a measure, Senate Bill 270, that would prohibit subjecting LGBT youth to the practice. In Maryland, the legislature sent a similar measure, Senate Bill 1028, to Gov. Larry Hogan, who’s indicated he’d sign the measure.
- In New Hampshire, the Senate last month voted to approve House Bill 587, which would seek to ban “ex-gay” therapy for youth. The House already passed a version of the legislation, which is now pending before conference committee.
- In California, Assembly Bill 2943 is now pending before the Senate after the Assembly approved the measure. California has already banned conversion therapy for youth. The bill would take things a step further and generally classify the practice as fraud.
The practice of therapy aimed at changing an individual’s sexual orientation or transgender status is considered ineffectual at best and harmful at worst. Major medical and psychological institutions, including the American Psychological Association, the World Health Organization, the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, widely reject conversion therapy.
Oakley said those proposals are “really important” because they’re affirmation that nothing is wrong with being an LGBT person.
“What they’re really saying out loud is that we understand LGBTQ people are who they are, they’re not broken, they can’t be cured, there’s nothing to be fixed, you are who you are and [we acknowledge] that no major medical health group believes conversion therapy is legitimate or healthy,” Oakley said.
According to a recent report at the Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, an estimated 698,00 adults in the United States have undergone conversion therapy. That includes 350,000 adults who underwent the practice as teenagers. The report estimated 20,000 LGBT youth will undergo the practice before the age of 18 in the 41 states that at the time of the report didn’t ban the practice.
Another pro-LGBT bill was set for consideration in the New Hampshire Senate on Wednesday that would add a prohibition on anti-trans discrimination to the state’s non-discrimination law. The New Hampshire House already passed the bill, House Bill, 1319 in March with a bipartisan 195-129 vote. (The Senate vote was set to take place after Blade deadline for this article.)
New Hampshire is one of three states — along with New York and Wisconsin — where the law bans anti-gay discrimination, but not anti-trans discrimination, although New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order expanding state law to cover transgender people.
A New Hampshire Senate committee reported out the legislation with a “do not recommend vote. A similar version of the legislation was voted down in the Senate last week after opponents stoked fears about bathroom access for transgender people.
On the eve of the floor vote, Oakley nonetheless said she’s “very hopeful” the chamber will approve the bill. New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu is expected to sign the measure.
“New Hampshire is the Live Free or Die State, and what could more live free or die than non-discrimination bills, making sure that people are able to be who they are?” Oakley said.
If the anti-LGBT adoption bills in Kansas and Oklahoma are rejected, it would mean no anti-LGBT bills in any state would have become law in 2018.
Oakley said movement in state legislatures of the pro-LGBT bans on conversion therapy and the prohibition on anti-trans discrimination while fewer anti-LGBT bills make progress is a positive sign.
“State legislatures are at historic levels of Republican control, so it’s important to say that this is happening all at the same time that we’re looking at increased Republican leadership in the states,” Oakley said.
— Chris Johnson, Washington Blade courtesy of the National LGBTQ Media Association.