FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) – An LGBTQ issue settled in litigation is a sticking point in a contract dispute between Sunrise Children’s Services and the state of Kentucky that keeps the commonwealth from giving another waiver to the organization, said Gov. Andy Beshear.
“My understanding is that there has recently been a settlement agreement that impacts this from litigation against the state, possibly because of those waivers,” Beshear said during his virtual press briefing on Monday. “My understanding is there is a new [U.S.] Supreme Court case since the last time a contract came along, and at least the Cabinet is telling me that inclusion of what previously has been struck is required by federal law.”
The settlement agreement comes from a case that started when a Sunrise employee accused the organization of firing her because she is a lesbian. Though the case against Sunrise was dismissed, she later sued the state over partnering with the organization. A settlement in the case was reached earlier this year.
“I think that is enforced by a settlement agreement from a long-term lawsuit that the Cabinet was faced by folks that thought that certain contracts allowed for the potential for discrimination,” Beshear said. “There is also a [U.S.] Supreme Court case that’s been fairly recent and strong on that point, too.”
Sunrise has worked with the state for years with an addendum or accommodation made in the contract that allows for its deeply held religious beliefs.
Sunrise Children Services and the state have until June 30 to sign a contract or cease to be partners.
“Now, if lawyers on both sides want to get together and talk about that, if the parties keep talking, then good,” Beshear said. “But when I’m told something has to be included because of federal law, that’s something you don’t get much of a choice in.”
Beshear would not address statements made by Sunrise that Cabinet officials have failed to return 20 phone calls nor did he say what would happen to the children currently in the care of Sunrise if the contract remained unsigned.
Sunrise Children Services has had a contract with the state since the 1970s, according to the Kentucky Baptist Convention which is allied with the organization.