The Oklahoma Senate has passed a bill allowing child welfare organizations, including adoption and foster care agencies, to turn away qualified Oklahomans seeking to care for children, based solely on the religious objections or personal views of those who run such agencies.
Under the bill, SB 1140, an agency could refuse to place a child with a same-sex couple, an interfaith couple, a single parent, a married couple in which one of the partners has previously been divorced, or any other individual to which the person has an objection, so long as they claim the denial was motivated by their personal religious or moral beliefs.
The bill passed the Senate, 35-9, and now heads to the Oklahoma House of Representatives for consideration. LGBTQ groups are already denouncing the bill, having seen similar measures in other states in the past few years.
“Bills such as SB 1140 are a clear attempt to solve a ‘problem’ that simply doesn’t exist while enshrining anti-LGBTQ discrimination into law,” Marty Rouse, the national field director for the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement. “If lawmakers in Oklahoma truly wanted to help find permanent homes for the children in the child welfare system, they wouldn’t be focusing on narrowing the pool of potential parents, which only hurts those kids. HRC calls on the Oklahoma House to reject this needless, harmful bill.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics, the Child Welfare League of America, and the North American Council on Adoptable Children have all condemned these so-called “conscience clause” or “religious freedom” bills, arguing that turning away caring adults only harms children in the adoption and foster care system. A recent report by HRC estimates that an estimated 2 million LGBTQ adults are interested in adoption, but are often not considered as prospective parents.
“This heartless attempt by Oklahoma State Senators to write anti-LGBTQ discrimination into law puts young people who need to find a loving home in jeopardy,” Sarah Kate Ellis, the president and CEO of GLAAD, said in a statement. “All of the leading medical and psychological authorities know that LGBTQ people are deserving parents who foster strong families. This law and other religious exemptions like it are not about the best interest of the state or children, but hiding anti-LGBTQ discrimination behind personal religious beliefs.”
Recently, a similar measure was introduced and passed in the Georgia Senate, sparking controversy after some in the television and film business threatened to boycott the state by refusing to shoot there.
“We will continue to fight SB 1140 in the House, we will fight it in the court of public opinion, and we will fight it all the way to the Supreme Court, if we have to,” Troy Stevenson, the executive director of Freedom Oklahoma, said in a statement. “Discrimination is not the Oklahoma Standard, and we will not let it become so.”
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