The Oklahoma Senate has passed a measure that would protect faith-based organizations from being forced to place a child for adoption or foster care even if it violates their religious or moral convictions.
Senate Bill 1140, sponsored by Republican Sen. Greg Treat, was approved by the Senate on Tuesday by a vote of 35–9.
The legislation would ensure protections for child-placing agencies that refuse place children with adoptive parents who do not meet the agency's religious or moral standards.
The bill must be approved by the Oklahoma House of Representatives before it heads for the desk of Gov. Mary Fallin. If signed into law, Oklahoma will join seven other states that provide similar protections for faith-based agencies.
Similar laws were passed in Alabama, South Dakota and Texas last year, while other measures are currently pending in Georgia and Kansas.
Oklahoma law currently does not address whether faith-based adoption agencies can reject potential adoptive parents based on religious grounds, and some agencies already do not place children with same-sex couples or single people. Treat said that the measure would protect such agencies from a potential lawsuit.
"We want to build the levee before the flood. Right now there are no pending lawsuits, but we know they are popping up everywhere all around the country," Treat said, as reported by the Associated Press.
Treat expressed his belief that the measure would increase the number of adoptions in Oklahoma. He noted that it would allow agencies that have statements of faith to be able to contract with the state to provide much-needed homes and foster care.
The senator added that the legislation would get more participants in the system and would not preclude anyone from participating.
Freedom Oklahoma Executive Director Troy Stevenson expressed concern that the bill would deny children the right to a loving family.
"We've got 9,000 young people in the system who are looking for loving homes. We're going to keep more kids in the system and less families from adopting," he said.
Casey White, a spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Department of Human Services, contended that the state and many private adoption agencies welcome same-sex couples as long as they can provide a stable home for the child and meet other requirements, such as background checks.
"We certify foster and adoptive families who are LGBTQ all the time. Even if a private adoption agency decided not to certify someone, there are many options for families to choose from," she said.