Why Oklahoma’s new law to end child guardianship is terrible news for LGBTQ people
Posted October 06, 2019 17:17:07 Oklahoma lawmakers are planning to make the change to its child-care laws without considering any LGBTQ people affected by the changes.
The legislature passed a bill on Wednesday to eliminate a provision that would have required parents to make sure their children were properly enrolled in a foster care program.
“I think it’s time for all of us to come together and work together to solve this problem,” said Republican Rep. Jim Riggs, the bill’s sponsor.
Riggs says that after nearly two years of a state-mandated adoption ban, the current law doesn’t do enough to protect LGBTQ children.
He says the law is designed to make it easier for people to access adoption by requiring a letter from a court to prove the need to adopt.
“This law is not designed to provide children with a safe environment and I believe the best way to provide a safe and nurturing environment for our children is to give them access to adoption,” Riggs said.
Rory Smith, an Oklahoma lawyer and president of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, said he hopes the bill is defeated, and that LGBTQ people across the country will continue to have their rights respected and affirmed.
“We’ve worked for years to try to get this law changed and I hope this is the end of it,” Smith said.
“The best way for all our children to be safe is to be able to adopt, so that means being able to have safe access to them.”
The bill would also repeal a requirement that parents pay for child care for LGBTQ children if they qualify for a subsidy program through the Department of Human Services.
The bill also removes a requirement for LGBTQ families to pay for the full cost of a foster child, making it more difficult for LGBTQ couples to secure a place.
It also removes the need for the state to provide vouchers for childcare expenses for LGBTQ kids.
Smith said he believes these changes are discriminatory, and would have supported the bill had they been included in the final version of the bill.
“It is the kind of bill that does not address the real problems that we have with this bill,” Smith told ABC News.
“If this bill were added to the bill and were allowed to go through, it would have been the most harmful piece of legislation to date to LGBTQ families.”
The legislation would have also taken away a clause in the state constitution that requires public schools to provide equal access to LGBTQ students and would allow the state legislature to make changes to its civil rights laws.
Riverside County School District in Oklahoma says it supports the new law.
“We’re extremely pleased with the legislative effort to pass a bill that would protect LGBTQ youth and their families,” district spokeswoman Melissa O’Brien said in a statement.
“Our school system and district have worked tirelessly to provide an environment where LGBTQ youth feel safe and secure, and we look forward to continuing to work with legislators to provide the best education possible for our students,” O’Briens statement added.
Oklahoma is the eighth state to pass sweeping protections for LGBTQ rights.
The bill also provides protections to transgendered students, who have been barred from using restrooms or locker rooms that match their gender identity.