Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin signed SB 1140 into law, making the state the first in the nation to enact anti-LGBTQ legislation in 2018. The new law allows taxpayer-funded child placing agencies to refuse to serve foster or adoptive parents who do not share their religious beliefs, including LGBTQ parents, single parents, or parents of other faiths.
“Oklahoma has now joined a small group of states that have broken the cardinal rule of child welfare — that the needs of children should come first,” said The Reverend Stan J. Sloan, CEO of Family Equality Council, “Granting agencies a license to discriminate hurts all children waiting for a forever home by reducing the pool of potential parents, allowing taxpayer-funded providers to refuse to place children with close relatives who happen to be LGBTQ and permitting discrimination against potential parents of another faith.”
Oklahoma SB 1140 targets the LGBTQ community without explicitly naming LGBTQ people, by encouraging some religiously-affiliated child placing agencies to discriminate on the basis of their belief that LGBTQ people should not be raising children. This is not just conjecture. When asked on the floor of the Oklahoma Senate what examples of “deeply held religious belief” the legislation would protect, the legislation’s author, Majority Leader Trent, replied that beliefs opposing “same-sex marriage” is one commonly mentioned example.
Condemning the Oklahoma law, Family Equality Council Chief Policy Officer Denise Brogan-Kator said: “Children in the foster care system depend on lawmakers to protect them; to willingly turn a blind eye to any practice of an agency, religion-based or otherwise, that has the effect of limiting the number of available foster homes abrogates the state’s solemn obligation to these vulnerable youth.”
Religious freedom is a core American value, and it is protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution. But freedom of religion does not give people the right to impose their beliefs on others, or to deny loving homes to vulnerable children in foster care, simply because prospective parents don’t share an agency’s religious beliefs. The majority of the American public agree: a September 2017 poll demonstrated that 68% of Americans oppose allowing taxpayer-funded child placing agencies to refuse to place children with gay or lesbian couples.
Family Equality Council is committed to continuing to fight on behalf for LGBTQ families and for child welfare systems that are free from discrimination. Family Equality Council is proud to lead the national Every Child Deserves a Family Campaign, bringing together a broad coalition of organizations from across the political spectrum, including child welfare organizations, child welfare professionals, advocacy and civil rights organizations, and current and former foster youth with lived experience in the child welfare system. Campaign members are united in the belief that no otherwise qualified foster or adoptive parent should be turned away due to their marital status, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, or gender identity.
About Family Equality Council
Family Equality Council advances legal and lived equality for LGBTQ families, and for those who wish to form them, through building community, changing hearts and minds, and driving policy change. Family Equality Council believes every LGBTQ person should have the right and opportunity to form and sustain a loving family, regardless of who they are or where they live.