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Faith And Foster Care: Kentucky Dispute Back In Spotlight After SCOTUS Ruling

Josh James

A closely-watched U.S. Supreme Court decision out of Philadelphia is providing ammunition for advocates of a Baptist-affiliated foster care and adoption agency in Kentucky. The state and the agency have been at odds over its posture toward the LGBTQ community.

Legal questions about how far-reaching the Fulton vs. the City of Philadelphia case, involving a Catholic foster agency denied access to the city's foster program, will be, but Kentucky conservatives are cheering what they see as a win for religious freedom.

In the commonwealth, the debate over whether the state should provide contracts to agencies that may discriminate against gay and lesbian kids and foster parents has centered on Sunrise Children’s Services in Mt. Washington. Pressed on the case in light of the new high court ruling, Gov. Andy Beshear said his administration is reviewing it.

"If the decision resolves the entire matter, it'll resolve the entire matter," he said Thursday. 

Should the ruling clear the way for a contract with Sunrise, the governor said still it won’t ease his worries about the potential effect on LGBTQ youth.

"It concerns me that they would go to any place—and I don't know that this happens at Sunrise—that would tell them that who they are is wrong in any way," Beshear said, giving his personal take. 

Sunrise has refused to agree to a clause in the contract barring discrimination based on sexual orientation, saying it could force them to act against deeply-held religious beliefs.

Agriculture Commissioner and potential GOP candidate for governor Ryan Quarles issued a statement, arguing Beshear should "immediately stop discriminating against Sunrise Children's Services because of its religious faith and allow it to fulfill their mission of helping abused and neglected kids in the Commonwealth of Kentucky." 

The Fairness Campaign, an LGBTQ rights group, contends the Supreme Court ruling is peculiar to Philadelphia's non-discrimination measure, which "which allows other exceptions based on the 'sole discretion' of the city's agency commissioner."

The governor took questions about the ongoing dispute during the first of his planned “Team Kentucky” updates, a weekly press conference similar to his once-daily COVID-19 briefings. 

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.
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