A bill allowing private child-placement agencies receiving state funds to object to placements violating their religious beliefs passed the Oklahoma Senate on Tuesday.
Opponents of Senate Bill 1140 say it opens the door to potential foster or adoptive parents being rejected because of their race or sexual orientation. Bill author Sen. Greg Treat said only the latter is possible.
"Race is a protected class under federal and state law. Nothing would allow that to happen with this bill, its passage or if it failed, either way," Treat said. "Same-sex couples, although the Supreme Court has found [their marriages] to be legal and overturned laws prohibiting it, is not in the protected class."
The bill protects private agencies from losing state or local funding because of their objections. Supporters and opponents disagree on the effect similar laws have had on adoption rates in other states.
Treat said the measure is needed to protect faith-based agencies from lawsuits, perhaps encouraging more to open their doors. Sen. Kay Floyd said that’s a non-issue in Oklahoma.
"There’s not been talk of a lawsuit. There’s not been discussion of a lawsuit. There’s not been a lawsuit filed and then dismissed. It’s just never happened," Floyd said.
Senator Michael Brooks was among the "no" votes on SB1140, saying not only does he have two adopted children, but also 60 years ago his uncle was adopted by an interracial couple with help from a Catholic group.
"To be able to have these types of biases in a state-sponsored system, in my experience, historically, every time you come up with a way to be able to exclude a group — especially in something as pro-family as adoption — you’re on the wrong side of history," Brooks said.
Three Republicans joined six Democrats voting against the bill, which passed 35–9.