This will make Oklahoma the eighth state in the union to do so; others have the potential to follow.
Marilyn Drew Necci | April 27, 2018
Yesterday, Oklahoma’s House passed a bill allowing adoption and foster care agencies to turn away couples whose existences violate their “sincerely held religious beliefs.” And we all know what kinds of couples do THAT, don’t we? After a 60-26 vote in favor, the House passed SB 1140, which has already been passed in the Oklahoma Senate.
If the bill is signed into law, it will make Oklahoma the eighth state in the US to pass so-called “religious freedom” bills relating to LGBTQ adoptions. They join North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, Michigan, Mississippi, Alabama, and… Virginia.
Sadly, yes, this sort of law is on the books here in our own state, and has been since 2012, a year after then-Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli advised the State Board of Social Services against approving rules that would have prohibited discrimination against potential adoptive couples “on the basis of gender, age, religion, political beliefs, sexual orientation, disability, family status, race, color or national origin.” In doing so, Cuccinelli reversed a 2009 decision by his predecessor, and convinced the board to vote 7-2 against the rules.
A year later, then-Governor Bob McDonnell signed HB 189 and SB 349 into law, both of which were termed “conscience clauses” at the time. Both had the effect of protecting adoption agencies from placing children with any couple that “violate[d] the agency’s written religious or moral convictions or policies,” according to SB 349′s official summary.
Unlike the Virginia laws, the bill passed in the Oklahoma House applies only to adoption agencies that receive no state or federal funds. Republican Representative Leslie Osborn was responsible for the amendment, and said, “I believe in the separation of church and state, so this simply says you may do whatever you want as long as you’re not receiving federal and state funds,” according Oklahoma’s KFOR News. The Catholic Conference of Oklahoma is working to remove even this amendment, and hopes to do so before the final bill is signed into law.
While the bill is expected to be signed into law by Oklahoma’s Republican governor, Mary Fallin, the Human Rights Campaign has not given up yet, and released a statement urging her to veto the bill. “SB1140 is a deeply discriminatory bill rooted in animus toward the LGBTQ community that would harm children in need and discriminate against loving families who want to open their hearts and homes,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “We should be making it easier — not harder — for children to find loving homes, and limiting the pool of parents for discriminatory reasons harms the very children these lawmakers are entrusted to protect. If SB1140 becomes law, it could prove catastrophic for Oklahoma’s economy and reputation. If it reaches the governor’s desk, HRC urges Governor Fallin to reject this dangerous legislation.”
The Oklahoma bill is the first one to pass both houses of a state legislature so far in 2018. A similar bill, known as the “Adoption Protection Act,” is currently working its way through the state legislature in Kansas; it has passed that state’s Senate and awaits approval in the House. We’ll keep you posted on the progress of both of these bills as it takes place.