DISCRIMINATION IN OKLAHOMA: Gov. Mary Fallin Signs Anti-LGBTQ Adoption and Foster Care Bill Into Law

by Nick Morrow

SB 1140 is now the first anti-LGBTQ state bill signed into law in the country this year.

HRC condemned Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin for signing the anti-LGBTQ bill SB 1140, a bill that would allow child welfare organizations -- including adoption and foster care agencies -- to turn away qualified Oklahomans seeking to care for a child in need, including LGBTQ couples, interfaith couples, single parents, married couples in which one prospective parent has previously been divorced, or other parents to whom the agency has a religious objection. The bill is now the first anti-LGBTQ state bill signed into law in the country this year.

“It is shameful that Gov. Mary Fallin has signed into law a patently discriminatory law that targets children,” said JoDee Winterhof, Senior Vice President of Policy and Political Affairs at the Human Rights Campaign. “Gov. 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. With this action, Oklahoma has the negative distinction of being the only state[s] to sign an anti-LGBTQ bill into law this year. Oklahoma’s leaders must live with that, and live with the reputational fallout that it may bring. This is wrong.”

“While we are deeply disappointed that Governor Fallin choose to sign discrimination into law, we are more concerned about the children - desperately looking for homes - that will be harmed by this disgraceful legislation,” said Troy Stevenson, Executive Director of Freedom Oklahoma. “And the countless young people who will be stigmatized by state sanctioned hate. Make no mistake, we will fight for the most vulnerable Oklahomans targeted by this law. Our message to Governor Fallin, and the lawmakers who championed this travesty is simple: we’ll see you in court!”

Earlier this session, HRC joined Freedom Oklahoma and child welfare advocates in Oklahoma City to call out this bill and its dangerous implications for youth waiting for homes in Oklahoma. HRC and Freedom Oklahoma also released a video featuring an Oklahoman and former foster youth who opposes this bill.

Many of the country’s top child welfare organizations have spoken out in opposition of the bill, including the Child Welfare League of America, North American Council on Adoptable Children, National Center for Adoption and Permanency, Foster Club and Voice For Adoption. This bill most harms children in the system who are awaiting placement in qualified, loving homes and are instead denied placement with a family due to a lack of prospective parents. Experts agree that child welfare services should be guided by the overarching principle that guides all family law: all determinations should be in the best interest of the child; this bill violates that principle. A group of Oklahoma-based and national faith leaders also wrote a letter of opposition.

HRC recently released a report, titled Disregarding the Best Interest of the Child: License to Discriminate In Child Welfare Services, detailing the harms of efforts to write anti-LGBTQ discrimination by child welfare agencies into law. Statistics suggest that an estimated two million LGBTQ adults in the U.S. are interested in adoption, but the LGBTQ community often remains an untapped resource when it comes to finding families for children and youth in foster care.

Research consistently shows that LGBTQ youth are overrepresented in the foster care system, as many have been rejected by their families of origin because of their LGBTQ status, and are especially vulnerable to discrimination and mistreatment while in foster care. SB 1140 will only exacerbate these challenges faced by LGBTQ young people.