'What Is Best For The Child': New Bill Would Prevent Foster Family Discrimination Based On Religion

A house committee spent Wednesday morning debating legislation that would ensure the state isn’t discriminating against foster or adoptive families based on their religion or moral beliefs.

Wednesday, April 3rd 2024, 4:58 pm



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State lawmakers are looking into the foster system in Oklahoma. A house committee spent Wednesday morning debating legislation that would ensure the state isn’t discriminating against foster or adoptive families based on their religion or moral beliefs.

“I think the whole idea is to try to find what is best for the child,” said Rep. Denise Crosswhite Hader (R-Piedmont).

Senate bill 1677 prohibits DHS from requiring foster or adoptive parents to affirm sexual orientation or gender identity that contradicts their religious or moral beliefs. 

The author of the bill, Rep. Crosswhite Hader, says Oklahoma has a shortage of foster and adoptive parents already, and wants to ensure that nobody wanting to take a child in is discriminated against for their beliefs.

“This simply is saying we're not going to hinder based on religion and take out a whole category of foster parents,” said Rep. Crosswhite Hader.

House democrats argue this will have negative impacts on Oklahoma children.

“I think there's a simple reason we restrict the pool of applicants because we don't want to place a kid who is LGBTQ+ where they might be subjected to conversion therapy,” said Rep. John Waldron (R-Tulsa). “To say that the state no longer gets to make the consideration for the welfare of the kid anymore, that's a violation of our trust.”

But Rep. Crosswhite Hader says it’s not about giving preferential treatment to any religion or ideology, it’s about ensuring foster families stay neutral.

“I don't want to hinder a good family that is pro LGBTQ from being hindered either because if they have the good basis of being the family that raises that child to become a productive adult I don't want to limit that opportunity either,” said Rep. Crosswhite Hader.

Representative Crosswhite Hader calls this a preventative measure, saying while it's not happening in Oklahoma, it is happening in other states. 

“If we're gonna tie the government's hand and allow religious discrimination to occur in our foster homes, that's not religious freedom, that's religious exemption,” said Rep. Waldron. “What we're doing today is granting a religious exemption not a religious protection but a religious exemption from an important consideration.”

The legislation still allows consideration of a child's religious or moral beliefs when determining placement and does not prevent DHS from making placements in the child's best interest.

With a need for foster and adoptive families in the state, the representative says this is really just meant to ensure all Oklahoma children have a loving family.

“Constantly make sure that we have a turnover, a pool of more and more people that want to do it for the right reasons,” said Rep. Crosswhite Hader.

The bill passed out of the House State Powers Committee today with a vote of 8-2, it will now head to the House floor for consideration.

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