Oklahoma Sends Bill Allowing Adoption Agencies to Turn Away Gay Couples to Governor’s Desk

· Updated on May 29, 2018

UPDATE (5/3/2018):

Oklahoma’s anti-LGBTQ adoption bill has officially passed the Oklahoma House and Senate.

Although the original version of State Bill 1140 claimed that adoption and foster care centers which receive federal funding would not be permitted to discriminate, that amendment was removed in Wednesday’s conference committee hearings.

LGBTQ advocacy organizations call the legislation a “potent license to discriminate.”

“This dangerous legislation hurts some of the most vulnerable kids in Oklahomathose who desperately need a loving family,” said Freedom for All Americans CEO Kasey Suffredini in a statement.

“Child welfare agencies should focus on one thing: supporting and advancing the best interests of the youth in their care,” he continued. “This bill will block parents and families who are ready to open their homes and their hearts to children in the child welfare system, and it could even jeopardize the well-being of LGBTQ kids in the state’s care.”

Freedom Oklahoma Executive Director Troy Stevenson added that the bill is a disgrace.

“Leadership of both houses forced an unneeded, unwanted, and un-American bill onto the Governor’s desk,” Stevenson said in a press release. “This measure does nothing but keep Oklahoma’s most vulnerable youth out of loving and committed homes.”

Now that the Oklahoma Legislature has agreed on a final version of the bill, the final call will be left to Republican Gov. Mary Fallin.

Critics urged her to veto the legislation.

“The people of Oklahoma can see right through this unnecessary and politically motivated measure to discriminate against children and families,” said Zeke Stokes, vice president of programs at GLAAD, in a statement. “The state’s business and community leaders must stand up to ensure a climate of fairness, equality and acceptance, and demand that Governor Fallin veto this attempt to write discrimination into Oklahoma law.”

According to Freedom for All Americans, more than 15,000 have sent letters to the governor asking her to reject SB 1140.

ORIGINAL (4/30/2018):

An Oklahoma bill allowing faith-based adoption and foster care centers to turn away same-sex couples could soon be headed to the governor’s desk.

Senate Bill 1140, which is also known as the “Adoption Protection Act,” received vigorous approval in the state’s House of Representatives on Thursdaypassing by a massive 34 vote margin. Sixty lawmakers voted in favor of the bill, while just 26 opposed the legislation.

Sponsored by Rep. Travis Dunlap (R-Oklahoma City), SB 1140 states that foster care and adoption agencies are not required to “participate in any placement of a child when the proposed placement would violate the agency’s written religious or moral convictions or policies.” The proposal, however, does not apply to agencies which receive state or federal funding.

Advocates warned the legislation could be used to target not only LGBTQ couples but also single parents and people of non-Christian faiths.

Calling SB 1140 “discriminatory, harmful to youth, and completely unnecessary,” Freedom Oklahoma Executive Director Troy Stevenson claimed in a press release that LGBTQ groups in the state will “fight against it becoming law, we will fight it in the court of public opinion, and we will fight it in court if necessary.”

Zeke Stokes, vice president of programs at GLAAD, argued that the bill is more than hurtful. He called it “un-American.”

“No qualified parent should be turned away from adoption or foster agencies simply because they are LGBTQ,” Stokes said in a statement, adding that SB 1140 represents an “attempt to write anti-LGBTQ discrimination into law at the expense of the state’s youth in need of loving and supportive homes.”

The bill’s sponsor, though, dismissed concerns of anti-LGBTQ bias by claiming people of faith were the ones who faced discrimination.

“Some could argue this bill actually protects organizations who believe they should place children [with LGBTQ people] because they have the religious obligation,” Dunlap told colleagues.

But prospective same-sex parents in the state say the conservative’s remarks don’t reflect the fear they feel when seeking out adoption and foster care providers. Chris Williamswho has adopted a child with her partner, Rebekah Wilsonsaid LGBTQ couples “worry about judgment.”

“You want everything to be perfect because you know they’re going to be hyper-vigilant about finding some kind of mistake,” she told the local news station KOKH-TV, arguing the bill sends the message same-sex parents are “unfit.”

Wilson added that SB 1140 is “particularly disturbing.”

“To shut down an avenue for creating a family is incredibly destructive and sends a horrible message about our values,” she claimed.

As the bill already sailed through the Oklahoma Senate in March, it now awaits a verdict from governor Mary Fallin following deliberations in conference committee. Fallin, a Republican who has persistently fought against LGBTQ equality since taking office in 2010, is very likely to sign the bill into law.

The conservative has opposed nondiscrimination protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, while also lobbying in favor of a constitutional amendment banning marriage equality. In 2013, Fallin blocked LGBTQ servicemembers in the National Guard from receiving same-sex partner benefits, defying a directive from the Pentagon.

Nonetheless, groups like the Human Rights Campaign have urged Fallin to veto the anti-LGBTQ legislation.

“We should be making it easiernot harderfor children to find loving homes, and limiting the pool of parents for discriminatory reasons harms the very children these lawmakers are entrusted to protect,” said HRC Executive Director Chad Griffin in a statement. “If SB 1140 becomes law, it could prove catastrophic for Oklahoma’s economy and reputation.”

To date, seven states have passed laws permitting adoption and foster care agencies to cite religious beliefs as a reason to refuse placement to same-sex couplesincluding Alabama, Michigan, Mississippi, and Texas.

Colorado and Kansas are considering similar legislation.

Image via Getty

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