OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Senate has approved a controversial measure regarding adoption agencies in the state.
Senate Bill 1140 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. It is authored by Sen. Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City.
“I believe 1140… it, in my opinion, expands the eligible pool of participants in providing adoption and foster care services,” Treat said. “It does not restrict same-sex couples from adopting.”
However, critics say that it would allow agencies to discriminate against couples, like those in the LGBTQ community, whose religious or moral beliefs don’t align with a certain religious organizations.’
“It doesn’t do anything to prohibit that or to prohibit same-sex couples from adopting,” Treat told News 4. “All it does is protect faith-based institutions who wish to participate, and some are sitting on the sideline right now and I hope to get them involved to help us take care of the huge need.”
Freedom Oklahoma Executive Director Troy Stevenson says that if the bill is signed into law, there will be a legal challenge.
“It will cost the state of Oklahoma business revenue,” Stevenson said. “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.”
On Wednesday, the Senate approved the measure with a vote of 33-7. Now, religious organizations are applauding the vote.
“We applaud Oklahoma State Senators for taking the bold step to ensure religious liberty protections for faith-based adoption agencies through Senate Bill 1140. These faith-based organizations serve countless children and families in this state, and we call on House members and the Governor to approve this much-needed policy now,” said Dr. D. Hance Dilbeck, Jr., executive director-treasurer of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.
“We are thankful for the leadership of Sen. Treat and Rep. Dunlap, and for the courage and steadfastness of state senators who understand the facts of this legislation and the importance of not only protecting faith-based services, but of the dire need to find more families for the more than 9,000 children waiting in Oklahoma foster care. We also seek guarantees for authentic religious freedom in Oklahoma so that faith-based organizations may remain on the leading edge of providing hope and good homes for children in need.”
SB 1140, authored by Sen. Greg Treat, mirrors similar laws recently passed in Virginia, Michigan, South Dakota, Texas and elsewhere. In states like Massachusetts, Illinois, California and the District of Columbia, faith-based agencies have been forced to close after new regulations were promulgated that would have mandated changes to their adoption criteria in violation of their religious principles.
Contrary to opposing rhetoric, the bill does not change current practice for foster placement by the Oklahoma Department of Human Services, nor does it “ban” foster placement or adoption by any class of families, including same-sex couples.
This past year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled adoption agencies that receive state funds or other support cannot be denied the right to exercise their religious mission. Sen. Treat’s bill will enshrine that decision in Oklahoma statute,” said Most Rev. Paul S. Coakley, Archbishop for Catholic Archdiocese of Oklahoma City.
The measure now heads to the Oklahoma House of Representatives for a vote.
The House already approved the measure last month, but with an added amendment. However, the Senate ultimately rejected that amendment.