LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A Kentucky agency that serves at-risk children says it will continue its practice of refusing to hire gay people.

The Sunrise Children's Services Board of Directors voted to make no changes in its hiring practices.  The Board Chair Joyce Smith said in a news release that the agency wants to stay "focused on our mission of providing love and support to the victimized children that Sunrise serves and our decision today will not affect the everyday care Sunrise provides to families and children."

CEO William Smithwick said, "For those that do not agree with our practice, we understand and we would love to have you join us in putting the kids first and support our mission of helping the least among us; victimized children who need a safe haven and the chance to see love and experience hope."

For more than a dozen years, Sunrise was involved in a federal lawsuit filed on behalf of Alicia Pedreia.  Sunrise had fired her from her job as a therapist after a photo surfaced of Pedreia and her female partner.  That suit was settled earlier this year.

State money for Sunrise amounts to around $26 million, with the Kentucky Baptist Convention providing $1 million.  Before the board's decision, Smithwick expressed concern about the possibility of losing government funding if the agency retained its policy against hiring gays, saying the it could not survive without that money.  He says Sunrise cares for nearly 400 children each day and another 200 in community-based services.

There's no word on how the decision might affect government money going to Sunrise.

On the other hand, Paul Chitwood, Executive Director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, said hiring gay employees could have cost Sunrise support and funding.  Earlier this month, he told WDRB News, "Kentucky Baptists will always invest in caring for orphans and children that are victims of abuse or neglect. But I think they'll always want to invest in a biblically faithful, gospel-centered type ministry."

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