OKLAHOMA CITY (Reuters) – The Republican-controlled Oklahoma legislature approved an adoption measure on Thursday that critics say discriminates against same-sex couples, non-Christians and single parents.
The bill would allow faith-based adoption agencies, including those that receive public funds, to turn away would-be parents on the basis of their marital status or religion and religious beliefs.
The bill’s proponents said the legislation would open the door for more child placement partnerships.
The state House of Representatives approved the bill by a 56-21 vote without discussion or debate, despite vocal objections and attempted parliamentary maneuvering from the Democratic caucus.
Opponents of the bill could mount a legal challenge. The Supreme Court in June 2017 reversed an Arkansas Supreme Court ruling and ordered all states to treat same-sex couples the same as heterosexual couples in the issuance of birth certificates. This and other court rulings have made adoption by same-sex couples legal in all 50 states.
As members of both parties shouted insults at each other during the abruptly called vote, the presiding officer threatened to remove one Democratic lawmaker from the floor for refusing to take his seat.
“The abomination of process & justice in the OK House of Reps makes me weep for democracy,” Oklahoma Representative Cory Williams tweeted after the vote. “The priorities of bigotry and hate, under the guise of religious freedom, are truly heartbreaking.”
Earlier in the day, the Senate passed the bill by a 33-7 vote. The measure now goes to Governor Mary Fallin, who has not publicly indicated whether she will sign it.
Leaders with Human Rights Watch and Oklahoma’s gay community criticized the bill, calling the measure unnecessary and divisive.
“What happened on the floor of the Oklahoma House and Senate today was a disgrace,” Freedom Oklahoma Executive Director Troy Stevenson said. “Leadership of both houses forced an unneeded, unwanted, and un-American bill onto the Governor’s desk. This measure does nothing but keep Oklahoma’s most vulnerable youth out of loving and committed homes.”
But Republican State Senator Greg Treat, who introduced the bill, told Oklahoma City TV station KFOR the language of the bill has been misconstrued.
“It doesn’t do anything … to prohibit same-sex couples from adopting,” Treat said. “All it does is protect faith-based institutions who wish to participate, and some are sitting on the sideline right now, and I hope to get them involved to help us take care of the huge need.”
Reporting by Lenzy Krehbiel-Burton; editing by Bill Tarrant and Grant McCool