Last week in the early morning hours leading into the weekend, the state legislature voted on the Kansas Adoption Protection Act, a bill that will allow faith-based adoption agencies from placing children in permanent homes that would go against their religious beliefs.

On May 4 at 2 a.m., the bill was passed and sent to Governor Jeff Colyer's desk which he has said he would sign into law.

Kansas senator Bud Estes of District 38 and Kansas representative Brad Ralph of District 119, each voted on the bill with Estes voting yes and Ralph voting no.

Boyd Orr of District 115, that represents Ford, Gray, Meade and Clark Counties, also voted yes.

"This bill doesn’t change anything from the way adoptions are handled in Kansas today," Estes said regarding his yay vote. "There are thousands of children adopted out by all of our agencies every year, some are faith based and some are not.

"The important thing is that these children get the chance to be a part of a stable and loving family environment. It takes all of our agencies to do that."

Estes' District 38 covers Ford, Meade, Clark, Gray and Seward Counties in southwest Kansas.

Estes said that the state needs more adoption agencies, and that faith-based agencies are becoming more and more scarce in other states throughout the country.

"This law insures that future efforts to close them should not happen," he said. "Citizens in Kansas who genuinely wish to adopt a child can certainly do so no matter what your race, religion, sexual preference or family structure. There are over 30 agencies addressing adoption concerns and most are not faith-based.

"Finding an agency to help with the process should not be difficult no matter your situation. The important thing is finding people willing to adopt and helping make that happen."

Estes also added that agencies such as Catholic Services of Southwest Kansas, do not receive public funds for the adoptions they provide.

"It is all private faith-based funding," he said. "The important thing is finding loving and caring situations for kids in need, to provide for stability in their lives as much as possible."

For Ralph, who's District 119 covers Dodge City, wanted to avoid what he called, "unnecessary legislation."

"Our local faith-based organizations provide a variety of vital services to our community for which we are grateful," Ralph said. "Those organizations will continue to provide those indispensable services regardless of whether the legislation passed or not.

"The adoption bill sowed seeds of discord for no identifiable benefit.

"Topeka needs to stay out of the way when we can."

The final vote for the Kansas senate was 24 yay, 15 nay with one non-vote and 6 yay and 58 nay in the Kansas House of Representatives with  four non-votes taking place.

According to the Topeka Capital Journal, the state has more than 7,200 children in its foster care system and approximately 2,400 children in state custody available for adoption.

Orr acknowledged how controversial the bill was and that many hours went into debating on its approval.

"It seemed to me that the facts of the legislation quickly became lost in the emotion of the debate," Orr said. "Some argued that the bill discriminated against the non-Christian religions and also against the LGBT community but others felt that it was protection of religious freedom.

"I voted for the passage of the Adoption Protection act. I see no discrimination in the fact that there are currently 35 child placement agencies in Kansas and that 12 of these are faith-based.

"Each agency has their own criteria on adoption policy and requirements.  The 12 faith-based agencies do have criteria based upon their sincerely held religious beliefs.

"This bill does nothing to change the current practice in Kansas. This bill adds absolutely no additional restrictions or changes to anyone  who wishes to adopt or foster children. The people looking for children to adopt or foster can continue to choose an agency of their choice that will allow them to do so.

"I also voted yes because I think that it will be in the best interest of our homeless children. We need both faith-based agency and the non-faith-based agencies working together with the same goals.

"Each have important roles to play in finding homes for some of our most vulnerable children."

To contact the writer email vmarshall@dodgeglobe.com