Director of Oklahoma LGBTQ advocacy group outlines how discriminatory adoption bill will hurt his state
Oklahoma's legislature passed a bill last week allowing adoption and foster care agencies to deny placement with LGBTQ families, among others
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From the May 8 edition of Oklahoma’s KOCO News 5 News at 9:
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TROY STEVENSON (EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, FREEDOM OKLAHOMA): This bill would allow state and federal funding to go to adoption agencies that discriminated against interfaith couples and single parents and LGBTQ families. They’re basically giving tax money to adoption agencies that would be discriminating, and that’s -- it’s a violation of the U.S. Constitution, of the establishment clause. It’s also just stigmatizing to not just the families that are being denied kids but kids having to say that they are not good enough, these families are not good enough, when they might be just like them.
MARKIE MARTIN (HOST): Not the right family dynamic.
MARTIN: And just kind of unpacking what would actually be protected here, what rejection reasons would be protected? It’s religion, sexual orientation, what else would be --
STEVENSON: If a person is divorced, if a person is a single parent, if a person does anything that goes against their strongly held religious convictions, or just if they don’t like people, basically. If they put this in writing in their policy, they can basically discriminate against anybody.
MARTIN: [Executive Director of Catholic Conference of Oklahoma] Brett Farley said lots of agencies do want to come forward, and they want to be part of this business, but they’re not going to do it unless this kind of bill, unless this kind of protection is in place. I can see both sides of the argument here, but from your standpoint, let’s look at the greater good. Would more kids be able to be adopted if more of these agencies did come forward with this protection?
STEVENSON: Absolutely not.
MARTIN: And why do you say that?
STEVENSON: There’s no shortage of agencies attempting to adopt kids. There’s a shortage of families that are willing to take these children, and to limit the number of families that can go through these adoption agencies is just counterintuitive to the idea that you want more families adopting kids. Why would you limit the types of families you could get?
MARTIN: Some people say, argue, what’s more American than having the freedom to operate my business or my agency in the way that I want to? Why should this be -- why should we deny them the right to do that?
STEVENSON: I think this is a concept that has gotten -- that a lot of people misunderstood in American law, what our Constitution says. And it’s not that -- people can do what they want, but discrimination is something that we’ve long-held as not an American value since the 1960s when we decided that you couldn’t have separate lunch counters or separate water fountains because people are different. If you think about it, there is no real difference in what they’re saying. They’re saying, “You can’t adopt here, but you can go somewhere else.” That is no different than saying, “You can’t eat here, but you can go somewhere else.” That’s not how our values state, and just because somebody’s got a personal belief about something doesn’t mean that they can take federal and state tax dollars and use those through discrimination.
MARTIN: In your talks with gay couples, single parent family, why not tell them there are other places to go? Why don’t they just go elsewhere and deny those places business in the first place?
STEVENSON: Segregation and separation are not something we believe in as Americans. We don’t say that you -- that we will serve the general public, however, we don’t like divorcees; we don’t like gay folks; we don’t like -- single parents, no, we don’t like them, so we’re not going to serve them, but we’ll serve everybody else. That’s not how this country works.
Later in the episode, KOCO News 5 featured another segment with Stevenson:
MARTIN: What does this change for kids in foster homes or in state custody?
STEVENSON: It codifies this into law. We believe that this is probably happening at a lot of these agencies already, but the fact that they’re putting a thumb in the eye of these communities that they’re saying all the sudden can’t adopt. It stigmatizes the kids that are going through this. Imagine being a young person that happens to be gay and them saying, “Well, that’s OK, but you can’t go to -- these people are not good enough to adopt you though.” What does that tell them?
MARTIN: And do those kids have any right to switch agencies or who represents them? That’s a big deal.
STEVENSON: That’s a good question. You go into the system, and you find parents. Yeah, that’s -- it’s harmful. It’s stigmatizing to entire -- and not just them. You see this law going through, and kids see it on television, and they hear that these lawmakers are saying that they’re just not good enough to be part of society. They’re not good enough to do this or to adopt.
MARTIN: For you, why do you -- are so vehemently against this?
STEVENSON: I think that there is no doubt that the main purpose of this was to stigmatize the LGBTQ community. That’s what they were attempting to do. And I think that -- and there’s no doubt that they’re attempting to make sure that these agencies can accept state and federal funds. Our tax dollars will go to this kind of discrimination and that’s not fair to say that to a community.