Georgia 2018: Kemp calls for 'clean' adoption bill

Republican Brian Kemp waded into a prickly political battle on Monday when he called on lawmakers to pass a measure to modernize Georgia's adoption laws without a controversial "religious liberty" provision and pledged to quickly sign it into law if elected governor.

That's likely a moot point, since Gov. Nathan Deal and House Speaker David Ralston have said that a "clean" version of the adoption measure is a top priority for next year's session.

But it could put the secretary of state at odds with Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, a rival candidate for governor who led the Senate in a feud with the House over the provision.

That battle dominated the final days of this year's legislative session. Senate Republicans made a late push in the Senate to inject a controversial provision that would have allowed some private agencies to refuse to place children with same-sex couples. And Deal repeatedly said he wanted a “clean” adoption bill without the religious liberty addition - and threatened to veto the measure if not.

The House and Senate ultimately couldn’t forge a deal in the final hours of the session, and the last-minute infighting frustrated House Speaker David Ralston, who had sided with Deal on the legislation. It also could have prompted Deal to veto on an unrelated foster-care measure backed by several Senate leaders.

Cagle and Kemp - along with the other leading Republican candidates for governor - have all pledged to sign the "religious liberty" measure if elected governor. But Kemp took a more nuanced position on the debate over the adoption measure.

In a policy statement on Monday, Kemp said he would raise the adoption tax credit from $2,000 to $6,000 and back legislation to make it eligible for all adoptions, not just those of qualified foster children. And he also took a firm stance in support of the legislation, proposed by state Rep. Bert Reeves.

"Efforts are already underway in the State House to update outdated laws that create red tape and frustration," he said. "As governor, I will refuse to play politics on this incredibly important and timely issue. Instead, I will urge lawmakers to pass a clean version of Rep. Bert Reeves' bill and I will sign it immediately."

Read more recent AJC coverage of the governors race:

Candidates for governor are showing rural Georgia some love

'Religious liberty' could have impact on Georgia's Amazon effort

Republicans race for attention early in race for governor

Williams steps up his embrace of medical marijuana

Georgia candidates seeking voters see gridiron as a golden opportunity

Democratic forum previews a fight for 2018

Georgia gov hopeful gets heat over response to Las Vegas shootings

Democrats in Georgia governor's race push gun limits

Georgia governor race: Who is running in 2018

New relationship brewing between Georgia Republicans, alcohol

A divide over the two Staceys has Georgia Democrats worried

Governor’s race revives a familiar feud between Kemp, Abrams

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About the Author

Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.