When Cara DeCoursey faced an unplanned pregnancy 28 years ago, the Catholic teen knew she was going to give her child up for adoption.
“I found strength in a faith-based adoption agency. Choosing adoption, for me, was a decision made out of necessity. I was too young to raise a baby,” she said. “It was a decision made out of love. I wanted what was best for my child and that was a mom and a dad. I was born and raised Catholic and this is what I wanted for my son.”
DeCoursey offered written and verbal testimony to Kansas lawmakers last week in defense of a proposal known as the Adoption Protection Act. The legislation would codify current practices in Kansas, allowing private adoption services to operate according to their faith.
Eric Teetsel, president of the Family Policy Alliance of Kansas, said in other states, agencies like the one DeCoursey used nearly 30 years ago are under attack.
“Some would rather see these agencies close their doors than be able to serve if their service is inspired by beliefs with which they don’t agree,” Teetsel said.
In places like San Francisco, Boston, and Washington, D.C. faith-based adoption agencies were forced to shutter or violate their religious beliefs. The Kansas legislation doesn’t create new rights for adoption agencies, but it affirms the status quo in order pre-empt the potential of future attacks.
“The only reason to oppose this bill is if you believe that Kansas should stop allowing current faith based providers to continue operating as licensed agencies,” Austin Vincent, an adoption attorney, told legislators.
Several states including North Dakota, Virginia, Rhode Island, Michigan, Mississippi, South Dakota and Texas have passed similar laws protecting faith-based adoption agencies, but the Kansas proposal met stiff resistance.
Before lawmakers held a single hearing on a pair of proposals–one in the House and one in the Senate–media initiated pre-emptive strikes. The Wichita Eagle published an article entitled, “Adoption bills would let agencies refuse LGBT couples based on religious beliefs,” nearly a month before a hearing on either bill was scheduled.
Both the House and Senate Federal and State Affairs committees held hearings on the proposal last week, the same day LGBT advocacy group, Equality Kansas, hosted its annual rally in the statehouse.
“Taxpayer dollars should not be used to discriminate against other taxpayers,” Thomas Witt, the executive director of Equality Kansas, told lawmakers. He later admitted that the bill wouldn’t apply to any agencies that are contracted through the state to provide foster care.
Catholic Charities agencies do not receive taxpayer money for adoption services. The organizations only place children for adoption in homes with a married mother and father.
“That means they will not place children in a home of co-habitating or single heterosexuals, including the celibate leaders of their faith,” Vincent said. “The restrictions are not animus towards anyone, rather what the agency believe provides the best home for children.”
He said in many instances, that is the desire of the birth mother.
“If she wants a couple who share her values and wants the caring assistance of an agency, she must have a faith-based agency as an option,” he said.
For DeCoursey, placing her son for adoption 28 years ago was the most difficult decision of her life. Today, he is a successful pharmacist who specializes in oncology medication to help cancer patients.
“He wants to make this world a better place,” she said. “ He loves Jesus Christ, and I can proudly say that I had a part in his love for the Catholic Church.”