Oklahoma lawmakers have voted in favour of a bill which enable adoption and foster agencies to reject same-sex couples because of their religious beliefs.
The Oklahoma House of Representatives approved Senate Bill 1140 on April 26, after the bill had been passed by the state Senate on March 13.
If Republican Governor Mary Fallin signs it into law, the legislation will come into affect on November 1 this year.
The bill says that “no private childplacing agency receiving neither federal nor state funds 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.”
In 2016, a federal judge ruled that Mississippi’s ban on same-sex couples adopting children was unconstitutional – making same-sex adoption legal in all 50 states.
But many states have tried to find ways around this ruling, mostly through the idea that there should be a religious exception for people and agencies who believe LGB people should not be parents because of their faith.
Including Oklahoma, eight states – including Alabama, Michigan, Mississippi, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas and Virginia – have managed to pass a law of this kind, which stops same-sex couples from fostering or adopting kids.
GLAAD’s vice president of programmes Zeke Stokes condemned the legislation, saying: “This bill is heartless and un-American.
“No qualified parent should be turned away from adoption or foster agencies simply because they are LGBTQ.”
Stokes called the bill an “attempt to write anti-LGBTQ discrimination into law at the expense of the state’s youth in need of loving and supportive homes.”
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The US is currently embroiled in a battle between so-called religious liberty and LGBT people that centres on whether homophobic Christians should have the ability to discriminate against gay people.
President Donald Trump’s administration has told the Supreme Court that it should be acceptable for businesses to put up signs denying service to same-sex couples.
And Trump’s Solicitor General has been supporting Jack Phillips of Colorado’s Masterpiece Cakeshop, who launched a legal challenge to his state’s anti-discrimination laws after he refused to serve a gay couple.
This ongoing fight for rights can also be seen in attempts by other states to join the several who already allow discrimination in the name of their religion.
Georgian lawmakers attempted – not for the first time – to pass a law to allow adoption agencies to turn away same-sex couples on this basis earlier in the year.
The bill passed the Senate Judiciary Committee, but never saw the light of day in the House or Senate, with several attempts to attach it to other prospective laws failing. Eventually, time ran out for its supporters, with the legislative session ending on March 30.
Oklahoma already has anti-LGBT legislation on the books, as one of several states with a so-called ‘no promo homo’ law which prohibits teachers in publicly funded schools from discussing LGBT issues in the classroom.
Alabama, Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Texas have similar laws.