Adoption, foster-care bill is dead for session
Some contend measure targeted gay couples
By Deborah Yetter
"It's too late," Sen. Gary Tapp, R-Shelbyville, said of Senate Bill 68, which was voted out of committee last week but still hasn't been called for a floor vote. "It didn't go anywhere this session."
Tapp said he didn't know why the Senate's Republican leadership didn't schedule a vote on SB 68.
"I quit asking," he said.
Neither Senate President David Williams nor Majority Leader Dan Kelly, the chamber's top leaders, could be reached for comment last night.
Even if the bill were to win Senate approval, it would still need to be passed by the House. And there is little chance of that happening with only three scheduled days for passing bills remaining in this year's session.
Opponents of the bill -- including those who said it was aimed primarily at gay couples -- were relieved to hear that SB 68 won't advance.
"We're encouraged," said Chris Hartman, executive director of Louisville's Fairness Alliance, which held a Feb. 25 rally at the Capitol to oppose the proposal.
Hartman said he hoped the numerous calls, letters and e-mails to lawmakers from opponents have "driven home the message that hate legislation should never be passed in the commonwealth."
But a member of Kentucky's Family Foundation, which supported the bill, said he was disappointed because he thinks SB 68 would have ensured good homes for children removed from families because of abuse or neglect.
"I really believed in my heart of hearts that children would be protected and placed in stable homes," said David Edmunds, a policy analyst.
SB 68 would ban anyone "cohabitating with a sexual partner outside of marriage" from adopting children or serving as foster parents. The language is nearly identical to a law passed last November in Arkansas, which opponents are challenging in court on grounds that it discriminates against gay and unmarried heterosexual couples.
Had SB 68 passed, Kentucky would have become the seventh state to ban unmarried couples from being foster or adoptive parents.
Kentucky has about 7,100 children in foster care and is working to recruit more foster parents, state officials have said. The state is seeking adoptive homes for about 2,000 of those children, according to the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.
Cabinet officials say both unmarried heterosexual and same-sex couples have become foster or adoptive parents.
SB 68 appeared to be gaining momentum when the Senate Judiciary Committee approved it at a special meeting Thursday, announced as the Senate was adjourning for the day.
One opponent of the measure, Lexington Democrat Kathy Stein, called it "legislation by ambush."
The bill passed unanimously, with no discussion, after Tapp and Edmunds spoke in support of it.
But SB 68 hasn't moved since. And Tapp acknowledged that with so little time left, chances are remote that it could clear the Senate and the House.
Senate Minority Leader Ed Worley, D-Richmond, said Tapp is probably right.
"It's his bill," Worley said.
Stein said she thinks that's for the best.
"I think that's an excellent thing," she said, adding that she has had numerous calls from people in her district who oppose SB 68.
Tapp said he expects to sponsor the bill next year.
"It will be back again," he said.
Hartman said the Fairness Alliance will continue to fight the measure but hopes it won't have to.
"It is in the best interest of children and the state that this bill not reappear," he said.
This is a couple of days old, but I didn't see it posted.