Those who study the issue say it’s hard to tell exactly how such rules governing adoption affect the numbers of children placed in “forever” homes.
By Bobby Ross Jr. | For Religion News Service
OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma lawmakers may soon sanction private adoption agencies turning away same-sex couples and other prospective parents who don’t meet their religious criteria, a possibility cheered by the Roman Catholic Church and many evangelical Christians and lambasted as discriminatory by gay rights groups.
It’s a conflict playing out across the nation, and both sides say that if the other wins, the number of children placed in loving homes will fall.
Seven states have passed laws — including Alabama, South Dakota and Texas last year — like the one proposed in Oklahoma. A bill with comparable language also has been introduced in Congress, according to The Associated Press. At least two other states — Georgia and Kansas — are debating similar legislation. At the same time, some local governments are withholding support from agencies that won’t serve gay prospective parents.
The LGBT community says the Oklahoma measure would result in fewer adoptions as prospective gay parents are turned away by agencies. Conservative Christians say failing to protect the right of adoption agencies to follow their faith would result in fewer adoptions, because those agencies would close before they act against their beliefs.
Those who study the issue say it’s hard to tell exactly how such rules governing adoption affect the numbers of children placed in “forever” homes. Still, the assertions from both sides on the matter have been definitive.
Passage of Oklahoma’s Senate Bill 1140 would “result in a disastrous reduction in adoption and foster placements and put 9,000 young people — currently in the system — in jeopardy,” said Troy Stevenson, executive director of Freedom Oklahoma, as the LGBT advocacy organization launched a statewide media campaign this month against the bill.
The numbers may not be there to back him up.
“I don’t know of any empirical evidence on the topic,” said Elizabeth Bartholet, faculty director of the Child Advocacy Program at Harvard Law School in Cambridge, Mass.
“In general, any barriers to adoption are likely to decrease numbers of homes for kids in need,” Bartholet added in an email. “But, of course, it’s possible that religious agencies would shut down rather than put their religious principles aside.”
Religion News Service is a national wire service whose media partners include The Associated Press, USA Today and the Washington Post.
Related: Under new Texas law, faith-based adoption agencies win protections (reporting from Abilene, Texas)