Mary Fallin, Republican Governor of Oklahoma, angered gun rights and LGBTQ rights advocacy groups in May, when she vetoed a bill that would have allowed residents to carry weapons without a permit and affirmed a measure that, come Nov. 1st, will allow religious adoption agencies to refuse service to same-sex couples. Fallin’s decision to veto the pro-gun measure drew the ire of fellow Republicans and the NRA who claimed that the governor went back on her campaign promise to support a “constitutional carry” law. LGBTQ rights groups, for their part, threatened the government with a lawsuit.
Oklahoma has been in the throes of political upheaval, as teachers have come out en masse to demand higher funding levels for education. The protests – which occurred at the state’s Capitol where the governor works – resulted in higher taxes on major corporations – including the gas and oil sectors – and were a part of a national surge of politicized teachers in primarily red states.
Gun Rights Debacle
Fallin, who will be leaving office in the coming months, has been subject to criticism on her side of the aisle. Her Republican colleagues, some of which are running in the gubernatorial race, have criticized her decision to veto the gun rights measure, even though law enforcement officials have lambasted the bill as a detriment to public safety. Fallin has rebuffed these criticisms, saying, “I believe the firearms laws we currently have in place are effective, appropriate and minimal.” She has reiterated her support for the Second Amendment and has reminded GOP politicians of her past advocacy of open carry laws.
Chris Cox, of the NRA, took issue with Fallin’s reproof: “Make no mistake, this temporary setback will be rectified when Oklahoma residents elect a new and genuinely pro-Second Amendment governor.”
The law, which is very much like “constitutional carry” laws passed in other states, would have allowed residents, aged 21 and over, to carry a gun without a permit. In addition, the law would have permitted people to carry their weapon either openly or concealed.
LGBTQ Rights in Crisis
According to the new adoption law, foster organizations will not be required to put children up for adoption in any way that “violate[s] the agency’s written religious or moral convictions or policies” – meaning religious agencies will not have to work with same-sex couples in adoption cases. The governor has said the new measure will have no detrimental effects on the LGBTQ community, as it does not ban adoption for LGBTQ folks.
Oklahomans for Equality posted a video on Facebook, stating their vehement opposition to the law and their intention to take their complaint to court. Allie Shinn, of the ACLU branch in Oklahoma, criticized the measure, saying, “SB 1140 is discriminatory, anti-family, anti-children, and anti-First Amendment.” She continued, “Rather than stand up to religious fanaticism, the governor has chosen to reinforce the delusions of those who confuse discrimination with liberty.”
Troy Stevenson, head of Freedom Oklahoma, said in a statement, he’s more concerned with the children who, without adequate services, will remain essentially homeless. “[C]ountless young people,” he said, “will be stigmatized by state-sanctioned hate.” He doubled down with a clear-as-day message to the governor: “Make no mistake, we will fight for the most vulnerable Oklahomans targeted by this law.”
The governor retorted, arguing that the new law will prevent religious adoption agencies from closing as they have in other states. This, she contended, will ultimately benefit children in need of adoptive families. She attempted to appease her opponents, promising to sign an executive order requiring “the Department of Human Services […] 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.”
Despite the governor’s argumentation, many LGBTQ organizations will be chomping at the bit, attempting to reverse the legislation.