Metro Weekly

Oklahoma governor signs adoption discrimination bill into law

LGBTQ groups call Mary Fallin's decision to sign bill "shameful" and "heartless"

Gov. Mary Fallin – Photo: U.S. Congress, via Wikimedia.

Oklahoma LGBTQ advocates plan to bring a lawsuit against the state after Gov. Mary Fallin signed into law a bill that allows child placement agencies to discriminate against prospective parents, including same-sex couples.

The bill was a source of contention in the legislature, with the Senate demanding the exemption and special protections for adoption or foster care agencies, and the House wishing to prohibit private agencies that choose to discriminate from receiving taxpayer dollars. Eventually, the bill was sent to conference committee and emerged with the Senate’s preferred provisions.

Under the law, prospective parents could be rejected by agencies for a myriad of reasons, including their status as LGBTQ couples, interfaith couples, single parents, divorcees, age, or any other characteristics to which a placement agency could pose a moral objection.

LGBTQ advocates claim the measure is not only discriminatory, but prioritizes the desires of adults running the agency over the well-being of the children in state care. They also note that a disproportionate number of older youth in foster care identify as LGBTQ, and refusing to place such children with accepting families, or deliberately placing them with people who might abuse them or subject them to conversion therapy, poses greater risks to their physical or mental health

“While we are deeply disappointed that Governor Fallin chose to sign discrimination into law, we are more concerned about the children — desperately looking for homes  — that will be harmed by this disgraceful legislation,” Troy Stevenson, the executive director of Freedom Oklahoma, said in response to the bill’s passage.

“Make no mistake, we will fight for the most vulnerable Oklahomans targeted by this law,” Stevenson added. “Our message to Governor Fallin, and the lawmakers who championed this travesty is simple: we’ll see you in court!”

Fallin’s decision to sign the bill into law makes Oklahoma the first state this year to pass a piece of anti-LGBTQ legislation.

“With the stroke of a pen, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin earns the dubious honor of becoming the first governor in 2018 to write anti-LGBT discrimination into law and withhold loving homes from Oklahoma children,” Currey Cook, counsel and director of Lambda Legal’s Youth in Out-of-Home Care Project, said in a statement. “We will work hard to ensure other governors will think twice before adding their names to this roll of heartlessness and cruelty.”

The Human Rights Campaign issued a statement calling Fallin’s actions “shameful.”

“Governor Fallin has cemented her legacy, siding with discrimination and the legislature in throwing kids under the bus to create a ‘license to discriminate’ against LGBTQ Oklahomans,” JoDee Winterhof, the senior vice president of policy and political affairs at the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement.

Josh Stickney, an adoptee and a lifelong Oklahoma resident who now works as an administrative associate at Equality Federation, expressed disappointment in his home state.

“I am confident that Oklahoma will now be subject to expensive and unnecessary litigation and heartache for LGBTQ families,” Stickney said in a statement. “Furthermore, I call on the people of Oklahoma to elect leaders who have the true Oklahoma Standard at heart rather than this kind of bigotry and hatred toward their fellow Oklahomans.”

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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