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Since the Oklahoma Legislature adjourned sine die May 3, Gov. Mary Fallin’s office has been fielding thousands of calls asking her to veto two bills: One about permit-free carry of firearms, and one that would grant faith-based adoption agencies the ability to decline applicants over religious objections. Friday, Fallin vetoed the gun measure but signed the adoption bill.

SB 1140, by Sen. Greg Treat (R-OKC) and Rep. Travis Dunlap (R-Bartlesville) passed the Legislature during the final week of the 2018 regular session.

The bill had been criticized by Democrats, LGBTQ leaders and attorneys who claimed it codified discriminatory practices into state statute for organizations that receive public funding.

“It doesn’t do anything to prohibit that or to prohibit same-sex couples from adopting,” Treat had told reporters hours before passing the bill off the Senate floor.

Dunlap was asked on the House floor repeatedly whether he believed a child was better off in state custody than being raised by homosexual parents, but he declined to answer.

Fallin on adoption bill: ‘It will lead to more options’

Fallin released a statement about her signing of SB 1140 minutes after this story originally published.

She wrote:

After many hours of consideration and investigation of Oklahoma’s current practice, I note the aggressive efforts that have been made since I have been governor and the substantial progress made in finding more temporary and permanent placements for deserving children, reducing by 21 percent the number of children in state custody. This improvement is due in large part to the successful public-private partnership of more than 50 agencies, some of which are faith-based.

Under Senate Bill 1140, the state will not be in any way restricting current practice allowing LGBTQ individuals and couples fostering or adopting. It does not ban same-sex adoption or foster care in Oklahoma. Instead, the bill will help continue Oklahoma’s successful placement of children with a broad array of loving families and basically maintain the status quo by setting forth in statute practices which have successfully worked for the best interest of Oklahoma children. I also note that the bill mirrors very similar legislation in Virginia, which has been on the books since 2012 without any court challenges. Since then, five additional states have passed similar legislation. Kansas also has a similar bill before its governor.

SB 1140 allows faith-based agencies that contract with Oklahoma to continue to operate in accordance with their beliefs. In a day and time when diversity is becoming a core value to society because it will lead to more options, we should recognize its value for serving Oklahoma also because it leads to more options for loving homes to serve Oklahoma children. Other states that have declined the protection to faith-based agencies have seen these agencies close their doors, leaving less options for successful placement of children who need loving parents.

Finally, I remain committed to preserving the rights of all Oklahomans who are eligible and want to be considered for parenting. Therefore, I plan to direct the Department of Human Services, by executive order, to immediately publish a list of Oklahoma adoption and foster agencies on its website who are willing to serve everyone who meets the Department of Human Services criteria for being a foster or adoptive parent.

Lawsuit likely to challenge adoption bill

While same-sex couples will be able to adopt from agencies that do not have religious objections to adopting out to homosexuals, LGBT leaders have called SB 1140 unconstitutional.

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Troy Stevenson, executive director of Freedom Oklahoma, called SB 1140 “disgraceful” after hearing the governor had signed it.

“While we are deeply disappointed that Gov. Fallin chose to sign discrimination into law, we are more concerned about the children — desperately looking for homes — that will be harmed by this disgraceful legislation,” Stevenson said Friday in a provided statement. “And the countless young people who will be stigmatized by state sanctioned hate. Make no mistake, we will fight for the most vulnerable Oklahomans targeted by this law. Our message to Gov. Fallin, and the lawmakers who championed this travesty is simple: We’ll see you in court.”

A lawsuit challenging the bill on those grounds has been expected, but asked about a letter sent to lawmakers by Crowe & Dunlevy attorney Sandy Coats that argued SB 1140 is unconstitutional, Treat expressed a difference of opinion.

“I have a lot of respect for Sandy Coats and his history, but I have attorneys that I also have respect for who have the exact opposite position,” Treat said.

As of the publication of this post, Fallin’s office had yet to release a list of bills she had signed Friday. But the bill information available on www.oklegislature.gov notes SB 1140’s most current history as “Approved by Governor 05/11/2018.” She sent out her statement on signing the bill at 6:43 p.m.

(Update: This story was updated at 6:54 p.m. Friday, May 11, to include Fallin’s statement on SB 1140. It was updated again at 6:59 p.m. to include Stevenson’s statement. It was updated at 9:50 a.m. Tuesday, May 15, to correct the spelling of Sandy Coats’ name. NonDoc regrets the error.)