The Oklahoma House of Representatives passed a bill on 26 April making it legal to ban gay and lesbian couples from adopting in the state.
This bill would allow adoption and foster care agencies to discriminate against parents whose lifestyle conflicts with their ‘sincerely held religious beliefs.’
The Adoption Protection Act passed the Republican-controlled House with a 60-26 vote. This is the second time a bill like this has passed the Oklahoma Senate.
The Catholic Conference of Oklahoma, which supports the bill, is working on removing an amendment in the bill which only allows this discrimination to organizations that don’t receive federal funding.
A similar bill is also making waves in Kansas, where LGBTI advocates are working to oppose it. LGBTI activists deem such laws a civil rights setback. Though it was initially rejected in March, the work isn’t done.
‘At this very moment, there is a bill rooted in nothing more than discrimination and bigotry working its way through the state legislature,’ said Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC).
Griffin urged Kansas residents to oppose this legislation, which he says sends an ‘openly hostile message’ to LGBTI Americans across the country.
The bill passed the Kansas Senate. It is now awaiting House approval.
On Thursday 26 April, a Kansas City-area pastor led the opening prayer for lawmakers.
‘Touch the hearts of our lawmakers with the wisdom and courage to uphold conscience rights and religious liberties for all,’ Father Brian Schieber said. ‘Protect all people from being forced to violate their moral and religious convictions.’
Supporters and Opponents
Supporters of the bill claim that considering how overloaded the foster care system is, losing faith-based agencies would only increase the burden. However, opponents say that allowing agencies to discriminate against LGBTI parents isn’t helping to find these children homes.
Tom Witt, head of LGBTI advocacy group Equality Kansas, is one such opponent. He believes the problem isn’t a shortage of agencies, but rather a shortage of families. And discriminating against LGBTI families only drains the ‘already shallow pool.’
Lori Ross, president of Foster Adopt Connect which has agencies across Kansas and Missouri, doesn’t believe this discrimination will end with LGBTI adults. She believes that LGBTI youth in the system will also have a harder time.
‘If they, in the privacy of their agencies and their churches, want to engage in discriminatory behavior, that’s between them and God,’ Witt stated. ‘Right now, what they’re trying to do is between them and the rest of us taxpayers.’