High court ruling cited in Kentucky child services dispute


KENTUCKY (AP/WDKY) – Republicans have turned up the pressure on Kentucky’s Democratic governor to renew a contract with a Baptist-affiliated children’s agency.

The dispute between the state and Sunrise Children’s Services has been going on for months now. The problem is a clause in the current contract which some people believe to be discriminatory.

MORE: Ky. officials debate whether state should renew contract with Baptist-owned children’s services company

The governor said the clause deals with sexual orientation.

Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a Philadelphia agency has the right to reject same-sex couples to foster and adopt children.

The state’s GOP attorney general and lawmakers reacted to the Supreme Court’s ruling, saying it should settle the Kentucky dispute between religious beliefs and gay rights.

In Thursday’s Team Kentucky Update, Governor Beshear said it’s not clear if that ruling will resolve this dispute, but said the state will follow federal law if that’s the case.

The Kentucky Fairness Campaign said in a statement that it doesn’t believe the decision will affect the contract.

Executive director Chris Hartman said in part, “If Kentucky’s Cabinet for Health and Family Services is applying its non-discrimination requirements without exception, today’s Supreme Court ruling changes nothing. We believe Kentucky still has every right to refuse to make exceptions for discrimination in state-funded foster and adoption care, and they should.”

State Republicans are asking the governor to end the contract dispute.

The Senate majority leadership said in a statement, “We again urge the Governor to right the wrong that his administration should have never initiated by immediately reinstating the long-standing contract with Sunrise Children’s Services. Kentucky’s families and vulnerable children deserve this matter to be remedied once and for all.”

Beshear acknowledged that “at least some of the initial language” in the ruling “suggests” it might resolve the Kentucky dispute. Sunrise’s attorney, John Sheller, says the high court ruling “applies fully” to the Kentucky dispute.

Members of the House Majority Caucus say this case between Kentucky and Sunrise is why they pushed House Bill 192, which says the commonwealth can not discriminate against a provider because of that organization’s religious conviction.

The contract with Sunrise must be signed by June 30.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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