Legislature

Gov. Mary Fallin greets takes the rostrum to deliver her State of the State address at the state Capitol in February. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World file

OKLAHOMA CITY — Gov. Mary Fallin on Friday signed a controversial bill that will allow private adoption agencies to refuse some child placements based on the agencies’ religious beliefs.

“Under Senate Bill 1140, the state will not be in any way restricting current practice allowing LGBTQ individuals and couples fostering or adopting," Fallin said in a prepared statement. "It does not ban same-sex adoption or foster care in Oklahoma. Instead, the bill will help continue Oklahoma’s successful placement of children with a broad array of loving families and basically maintain the status quo by setting forth in statute practices which have successfully worked for the best interest of Oklahoma children. I also note that the bill mirrors very similar legislation in Virginia, which has been on the books since 2012 without any court challenges. Since then, five additional states have passed similar legislation. Kansas also has a similar bill before its governor.

“SB 1140 allows faith-based agencies that contract with Oklahoma to continue to operate in accordance with their beliefs. In a day and time when diversity is becoming a core value to society because it will lead to more options, we should recognize its value for serving Oklahoma also because it leads to more options for loving homes to serve Oklahoma children. Other states that have declined the protection to faith-based agencies have seen these agencies close their doors, leaving less options for successful placement of children who need loving parents.

“Finally, I remain committed to preserving the rights of all Oklahomans who are eligible and want to be considered for parenting. Therefore, I plan to direct the Department of Human Services, by executive order, to immediately publish a list of Oklahoma adoption and foster agencies on its website who are willing to serve everyone who meets the Department of Human Services criteria for being a foster or adoptive parent.”

Senate Majority Floor Leader Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, is the author. He has said the measure would increase adoptions. Supporters say it is an adoption protection measure.

The measure was supported by the Oklahoma’s Catholic bishops and the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.

“We are grateful for Gov. Fallin’s support of religious liberty in Oklahoma,” said the Most Rev. Paul S. Coakley, Archbishop of Oklahoma City, and the Most Rev. David Konderla, Bishop of Tulsa. “The new law will bring more adoption services to the state and allow crucial faith-based agencies to continue their decades-long tradition of caring for Oklahoma’s most vulnerable children.

“Since the law does not change the process for placing foster children or ban any family from adopting, we hope and pray this action will increase the number of children matched with loving families.”

Oklahomans for Equality and Freedom Oklahoma lobbied against the measure.

The critical component for Oklahomans for Equality is the use of taxpayer dollars to discriminate against LGBTQ people, whether it is couples or children awaiting placement, said Toby Jenkins, the group’s executive director.

"Oklahomans for Equality is deeply disappointed in the governor's lack of leadership. The pervasive and persistent mean-spirited legislative efforts continue to be day-to-day business in Oklahoma," Jenkins said.

"Eventually, we will have gone too far and the only recourse will be the Oklahoma Supreme Court to remind us of the cost."

Barbara Hoberock

405-528-2465

barbara.hoberock@tulsaworld.com

Twitter: @bhoberock

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