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Governor Mary Fallin signs controversial adoption bill

Governor Mary Fallin

OKLAHOMA CITY — Governor Mary Fallin has signed a bill opponents have criticized as discriminatory in the adoption process.

Senate Bill 1140, authored by Sen. Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, states child-placing agencies do not need to place a child or provide related services if doing so would violate the agency’s religious or moral beliefs.

In a statement sent Friday night, Governor Fallin said she does not believe the bill would restrict LGBTQ individuals and couples from fostering or adopting. For months, organizations have argued the exact opposite.

Troy Stevenson, executive director of Freedom Oklahoma, told News 4 in a past interview that his organization was prepared to seek legal action if the bill was signed into law. They are currently working with attorneys, including Sandy Coats.

“It will cost the state of Oklahoma business revenue,” Stevenson said in early May. “We’ve already heard from folks like Amazon, from the state chamber, from corporations across the country that are not interested in relocating or expanding their operations in a state that actively discriminates.”

Reverend Paul Coakley, Archbishop of Oklahoma City, said they were pleased with the Governor’s decision.

“We are grateful for Gov. Fallin’s support of religious liberty in Oklahoma. 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,” Reverend Coakley said in a press release.

The Governor’s full statement:

“After many hours of consideration and investigation of Oklahoma’s current practice, 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. This improvement is due in large part to the successful public-private partnership of more than 50 agencies, some of which are faith-based.

“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. 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.”

Troy Stevenson, Executive Director of Freedom Oklahoma released a statement Friday evening saying, “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 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 and, if necessary, we will do so in a court of law. Our message to Governor Fallin, and the lawmakers who championed this travesty is simple: We are prepared to challenge those who attempt to cloak their discrimination with this law.”

“We are disappointed, though frankly unsurprised, that the Governor chose today to continue the Legislature’s game of using children and LGBT Oklahomans as pawns in cruel political games. SB 1140 is discriminatory, anti-family, anti-children, and anti-First Amendment. Rather than stand up to religious fanaticism, the Governor has chosen to reinforce the delusions of those who confuse discrimination with liberty. This measure serves no legitimate policy purpose. Its only purpose is to shortsightedly advance the careers of politicians who are more interested in exploiting a culture of fear and hysteria than they are in effectively governing. Governor Fallin may wish us all to believe she has worked to make Oklahoma a more hospitable place to live, but by signing legislation like this, she has permanently stained her legacy as Governor of the State of Oklahoma,” said Allie Shinn, Director of External Affairs with ACLU of Oklahoma.