FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) -- Gov. Andy Beshear says his administration will be looking at the opinion offered by the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Fulton vs. Philadelphia on Thursday to see how it will affect their talks with Sunrise Children’s Services.
At a press conference Thursday, Beshear said, “We’ll review this decision. If the decision resolves the entire matter, it’ll resolve the entire matter. Each point in this has been about federal law, and a federal law means the contract that they’re seeking is one that we need to provide, then we’ll do it.”
The Supreme Court issues a 9-0 unanimous decision in favor of Catholic Social Services, a foster care agency in Philadelphia that could not sign a contract forcing them to consider prospective foster parents in same-sex marriages. The court ruled “foster care agencies to not act as public accommodations”, therefore, being forced to sign such an agreement would violate their First Amendment rights.
“We believe 9-0 is a resounding decision,” said Dale Suttles, president of Sunrise Children’s Services. “We celebrate the Catholic Social Services can continue their work.”
Speaking of the talks between Sunrise and the Beshear administration, Suttles said, “We look forward to further discussions with the Governor’s office and we hope we can reach a contract renewal.”
The Cabinet for Health and Family Services had given Sunrise until June 30 to sign a contract but had recently indicated they would extend the deadline until Sept. 1 as they were waiting on action from President Biden’s administration to reserve a decision made by President Donald Trump.
“When the Governor’s office tried to step in, it was simply to broker an agreement to where we continue placing children in Sunrise, until we got a final decision from the Biden administration, which wasn’t expected until the end of August,” Beshear said.
Sunrise’s attorney, John Sheller, told the Associated Press the high court ruling “applies fully” to the Kentucky dispute. If Kentucky “fails to follow it, it will invite litigation which the governor is sure to lose,” he said.
“The facts and law are virtually identical and legally indistinguishable,” Sheller said in an email to the AP.
“Me personally, I have great friends who are gay parents. They are wonderful people. They are raising an amazing son. I‘m concerned with any group that doesn’t see that, and the amazing families that are right there," Beshear said.
"We have a foster care system where children are crying out to have people who will love and care and invest in them, and to preclude anybody from being a part of that is concerning. We know that some of our LGBT youth are some of the most marginalized, have higher rates of falling into human trafficking, of certain types of abuse," he said.
"It concerns me that they would go to a place, and I don’t know that this happens at Sunrise, but anyplace that tells them that who they are is wrong in any way. Because I do not believe they are sinful, I believe they are children of God just like every person on this Earth," Beshear said.
Suttles responded to the governor’s statement. “Sunrise does our best to work with everyone. If a prospective foster parent or couple isn’t the best fit for us, we refer them back to the state or another agency that will be able to help them fulfill their desire to foster.”
Sunrise has been seeking an exemption from the Beshear administration to protect its deeply held religious convictions. Sunrise is an agency of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.
Suttles added the agency does not turn away children because of age, race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity.