The movement to protect faith-based adoption agencies from becoming the victims of LGBTQ-oriented non-discrimination laws gained more momentum this week when Governor Mary Fallin (R) of Oklahoma signed a new law into effect that will protect faith-based adoption agencies from being forced to provide placements that violate their religious or moral convictions.
According to the office of Governor Fallin, Senate Bill 1140 was signed into law on Friday, May 11, and will insure that “no private child-placing agency shall be required to perform, assist, counsel, recommend, consent to, refer, or participate in any placement of a child for foster care or adoption when the proposed placement would violate the agency’s written religious or moral convictions or policies.”
Even though LGBTQ activist groups responded by accusing the state of sanctioning discrimination, Gov. Fallin said the law does nothing of the kind.
“Under Senate Bill 1140, the state will not be in any way restricting current practice allowing LGBTQ individuals and couples fostering or adopting. 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.”
The move to protect faith-based adoption agencies from being shut down for refusing to place children with same-sex couples seems to be gaining steam. Virginia passed a similar law in 2012 without any court challenges as well as five other states. A bill is currently awaiting signature from the governor of Kansas.
On a federal level, the Child Welfare Inclusion Act is being deliberated by Congress and would over-ride state-level anti-discrimination laws that force faith-based agencies to either place children with LGBTQ couples or go out of business.
These anti-discrimination laws have done little more than add to the growing body of children who are looking for homes by forcing large and productive agencies such as Catholic Charities to close their doors in states such as Massachusetts, Illinois, California, and the District of Columbia.
However, Gov. Fallin says that partnering with faith-based agencies is one of the reasons why Oklahoma’s adoption rates are so high.
“ . . . I note the aggressive efforts that have been made since I have been governor and the substantial progress made in finding more temporary and permanent placements for deserving children, reducing by 21 percent the number of children in state custody,” the governor said. “This improvement is due in large part to the successful public-private partnership of more than 50 agencies, some of which are faith-based.”
The new law will allow these agencies to continue to operate in accordance with their beliefs.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma is calling SB1140 “discriminatory, anti-family, anti-children, and anti-First Amendment.”
In a statement issued by Allie Shinn, External Affairs Director of ACLU of Oklahoma, the legislature was accused of “using children and LGBT Oklahomans as pawns in cruel political games.”
Troy Stevenson, Executive Director, Freedom Oklahoma, also decried the signing of the bill, citing concerns for the children who will be harmed by “this disgraceful legislation” and promising to take this fight to court.
However, as the governor pointed out in her statement, common sense says that faith-based organizations need to be protected, not penalized, for the sake of children and families.
“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,” she said.
Oklahoma City’s Archbishop Paul S. Coakley and Tulsa’s Bishop David Konderla agree. In a statement issued on Instagram, they praised the governor for her support of religious liberty and for the children who will be served by this new law.
“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.”
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