An Oklahoma House committee has
approved a bill that seeks to allow religious child welfare
organizations, including adoption and foster care agencies, to
discriminate against same-sex couples.
Senate Bill 1140 cleared the Senate
last month with an overwhelming 35-9 vote.
The bill states: “To the extent
allowed by federal law, 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.”
Senate Majority Floor Leader Greg
Treat, a Republican from Oklahoma City, has defended his bill,
arguing that it would increase the number of adoptions in Oklahoma by
expanding the pool of faith-based organizations participating.
The House Judiciary Committee advanced
the bill to the full House for consideration, adding an amendment
that excludes agencies that receive state funding.
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the
nation's largest LGBT rights advocate, said that the bill does not
take into account the best interest of children.
“SB 1140, if passed, would allow
state-licensed child-placing agencies to disregard the best interest
of children and turn away qualified Oklahomans seeking to care for a
child in need,” Cathryn Oakley, state legislative director and
senior counsel at HRC, said during a press conference. “This would
include 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.”
“While the House Judiciary
Committee’s amendment would limit the permissible discriminatory
behavior to agencies that do not receive public funding, LGBTQ
Oklahomans will continue to be subjected to discrimination under this
dangerous law,” Oakley added. “Further, the limiting amendment
could be stripped away – increasing the impact of the bill – as
it moves through the legislature.”
Republicans hold an almost
three-fourths majority in the House.