TOPEKA, Kan. (CN) — Kansas lawmakers stayed up late Thursday into early Friday morning to pass a law that protects adoption agencies that refuse to serve LGBT couples because of religious beliefs.
The Oklahoma Legislature passed a similar bill Thursday. Seven other states have such laws.
The Kansas Adoption Protection Act allows faith-based adoption agencies, some of which receive public funding, to reject LGBT applicants without losing support from the Kansas Department for Children and Families.
Governor Jeff Colyer, a Republican, has said he will sign the bill into law.
Opponents say the bill constitutes state-sponsored discrimination; supporters say it protects the religious rights of adoption agencies.
“Religious freedom is a bedrock principle,” Kansans for Life executive director Mary Kay Culp said in a statement. “The coercion of the state forcing people to violate their deeply held religious values is directly contradictory to the First Amendment.”
But Brett Hoedl, a member of LGBT rights group Equality Kansas, called the bill a last-ditch effort by Republicans to garner support from their base in the midterm elections.
“Conservatives lost on same-sex marriage, so they have to go after same-sex families,” Hoedl said in a statement. “This too shall pass.
“These are desperate actions of a dying ideology. They know they’ve lost support and they know these midterms are going to be brutal. They had to get in one last shot.”
The bill passed the House by a vote of 63-58 Thursday night, with 63 votes needed to send it to the Senate, which approved it 24-15 just before 2 a.m. Friday. Several moderate Republicans joined Democrats in opposing the bill.
Rep. Stephanie Clayton, R-Overland Park, was one of the moderate Republicans opposing the bill, saying she did not support “state-sanctioned discrimination.”
“It’s a strange sort of feeling when you walk on the floor, you’ve done all you can, and you just have to wait for a vote to find out if there is any reason to hope for any decency in the world,” she tweeted before the House vote.
After the House approved the bill, Clayton retweeted her message about decency, adding: “As it turns out, there isn’t any.”
State Sen. Steve Fitzgerald, R-Leavenworth, who supported the bill, denounced a “homosexual agenda” during debate on the bill. Fitzgerald is running for Congress in Kansas’ 2nd District.
Fitzgerald said: “‘There is no homosexual agenda.’ I was being told that when people were saying that there was one. And now we find out there is an agenda. And what was once tolerated is now becoming dominant and is intolerant — totally intolerant.”
Tech companies, including Amazon, Apple and Google, sent a letter to Republican lawmakers asking them to oppose the bill, concerned that passage may harm Kansas’ ability to bring in and keep workers.
After the bill passed the Senate, Gov. Colyer said he supports the bill because it encourages faith-based adoption agencies to continue their work.
“Catholic Charities and other adoption agencies are key to the fabric of our communities,” Colyer said in a statement. “I look forward to signing this bill because it increases the opportunities for needy children to find loving homes.”
Michael Schuttloffel, executive director of the Kansas Catholic Conference, has stated that Catholic Charities might cease its adoption services if the vote failed.