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Oklahoma Legislature Passes Controversial Adoption Bill

runaway-girl-children_s_society.jpg
The Children's Society
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A bill protecting private agencies if they deny child placements on moral or religious grounds is going to Gov. Mary Fallin after passing both chambers of the Oklahoma legislature on Thursday.

The Senate passed Senate Bill 1140 33–7 before noon, and the House passed the measure 56–21 just after 5 p.m.

House Democrats stalled the final vote on the bill by using procedural motions for almost an hour before Republicans shut them down.

"Every time you make an official ruling trying to silence me and silence the opportunity to have a legitimate debate on this, I have an opportunity to appeal that," Rep. Scott Inman said to Rep. Todd Russ, who was presiding over the House session. "And then they'll go through their motions to apparently squelch debate because they're apparently embarrassed to discuss this in open public."

Civil rights groups oppose Senate Bill 1140 for its potential impact on LGBTQ people hoping to adopt or foster a child.

"We are not banning same-sex adoption if we adopt this bill. We are not banning someone who’s been married less than three years from adopting or foster caring with this bill. We are not banning someone who has a sexual orientation different than you or I. We are not banning someone who has a gender identity different than you or I believe," said bill author Sen. Greg Treat.

SB1140 protects agencies from lawsuits, losing public funding or having their certification revoked by the Oklahoma Department of Human Services solely for rejecting a child placement for moral or religious reasons.

Critics say SB1140 will put up barriers to foster care and adoption. Sen. Michael Brooks read a note from an adoptive parent accused of being morally unfit.

"'I will never forget the words. "How dare you." They came from a friend, a Christian friend, one who loves and believes in Jesus the same way that I do. "How dare you adopt a child. You’re not married,"'" Brooks said.

Sen. Kevin Matthews asked how far the state will go in legislating to accommodate deeply held religious beliefs.

"Do we go as far as a deeply held religious belief as to whether or not a couple believes in submersion of baptism, et cetera?" Matthews said.

The House amended the bill last week to apply only to agencies receiving no public funding, but that change was jettisoned this week by a one-off committee. House Democrats tried to restore that amendment Thursday afternoon but were unsuccessful.