Kentucky’s contract renewal with a Baptist-affiliated children’s agency remains in limbo, but the state is continuing to place youngsters in its care, Gov. Andy Beshear said July 1.
The months long dispute revolved around a clause in a new contract with the state that banned discrimination based on sexual orientation. Sunrise Children’s Services, which is affiliated with the Kentucky Baptist Convention, refused to sign the contract, saying the disputed clause would have compelled them to violate deeply held religious principles by sponsoring same-sex couples as foster or adoptive parents.
Sunrise has since been offered a revised contract reflecting what it had requested, with “a line in two different sections eliminated,” the Democratic governor said at his weekly news conference.
“Sunrise has responded by saying that’s no longer their position, and they now want significant additional terms written into the contract,” Beshear said. “So at this point, there is not resolution but they have the contract they asked for, right there ready to sign if they’re willing.”
The state offered the contract change after a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling, which Sunrise’s attorney contended fully applied to the Kentucky dispute. In the Pennsylvania case, the high court unanimously sided with a Catholic foster care agency that said its religious views prevented it from working with same-sex couples as foster parents.
Beshear’s administration had set a June 30 deadline for Sunrise to sign a new contract. If it refused, the state had threatened to stop placing children with the agency.
Children still being placed
But the governor said Thursday that children are still being placed with the foster care and adoption agency. Sunrise also offers residential treatment programs, serving some of the state’s most vulnerable children.
“We’re not cutting that off at the moment,” the governor said. “Kids are still being placed there.”
Sunrise’s attorney, John Sheller, said Thursday that any additional language being sought is needed to comply fully with the Supreme Court ruling in the Fulton v. City of Philadelphia case. The state also has asked for changes or clarifications in the contract, he said.
“Every clarification requested by Sunrise is either something required by Fulton, something it requested before, or something KY has accepted in the past,” Sheller said in an email. “We look forward to completing the process soon and we presume KY feels the same.”
The governor said Sunrise has been a “good provider” of services. Formerly called Kentucky Baptist Homes for Children, Sunrise’s history dates to caring for Civil War orphans. It has contracted with the state for 50-plus years.
Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, a Republican, and GOP state lawmakers have pressed Beshear’s administration to renew Sunrise’s contract.