Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin angered LGBT and civil liberties advocates everywhere last Friday when she signed into law a bill allowing faith-based adoption and foster care agencies, even those with state contracts, to turn away prospective parents who pose a conflict with their religious beliefs, meaning there will be state-sanctioned discrimination against LGBT people, single parents, interfaith couples, and others. It was the first state-level anti-LGBT bill to become law this year. But it was far from Fallin’s first anti-LGBT action.
A Republican, she was first elected governor in 2010 and was reelected in 2014. Term limits prevent her from seeking reelection this year, but the governor’s office will probably stay in Republican hands in the deeply conservative state (there are several candidates competing). Before that, she was a U.S. House member, lieutenant governor, and state representative.
In her two terms in Congress, 2007-2009 and 2010-2011, she racked up solid zeroes on the Human Rights Campaign’s Congressional Scorecard. She cosponsored three consecutive constitutional amendments that would have banned same-sex marriage, and she voted against LGBT-inclusive hate-crimes legislation, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
In 2013, during her first term as governor, she made headlines by declaring that the Oklahoma National Guard would no longer process benefit applications for military spouses in order to avoid processing them for same-sex spouses, who had become eligible for the benefits thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court striking down the Defense of Marriage Act and therefore allowing the federal government to recognize same-sex marriages.
No less than Stephen Colbert, then hosting The Colbert Report, made sport of her for that. “Governor Fallin, I heard that gay people in Oklahoma enjoy the scent of your state flower, the Oklahoma Rose, just as much as straight people do,” he said. “So you should order everyone in your state to cut off their noses to spite the gays. ’Cause you’re kind of doing it already.”
The following year, the Supreme Court declined to review a federal appeals court ruling striking down Oklahoma’s ban on same-sex marriage. So the ruling stood and weddings commenced in the state, but Fallin was not celebrating. She said the rights of Oklahomans who voted for the marriage ban “have once again been trampled by an arrogant, out-of-control federal government that wants to substitute Oklahoma values with Washington, D.C., values.”
In 2015, after the high court ruled for nationwide marriage equality, Fallin signed an unnecessary bill assuring that clergy members would not have to perform marriages that conflicted with their religious beliefs — something already assured by the U.S. Constitution.
In 2016, Fallin denounced President Obama’s administration for its recommendation that schools offer transgender students access to the restrooms and locker rooms matching their gender identity. “This is just another example of federal overreach by the Obama administration, made worse by bullying states with a threat to withhold federal funding if they do not comply,” she said.
Later that year, a lesbian delegate at the Republican National Convention begged her fellow delegates to back off their anti-LGBT ways, which she saw as alienating voters. Fallin would have none of it, saying, for instance, that opposition to marriage equality was “the longtime tradition of the Republican Party.” That and other anti-LGBT positions are certainly the longtime tradition of Mary Fallin.