Metro Weekly

Oklahoma anti-LGBT bills miss crucial deadline for moving forward

Legislature's failure to take up 27 discriminatory bills gives LGBT Oklahomans a respite until next year

Photo: Oklahoma State Capitol. Credit: flickr.
Photo: Oklahoma State Capitol. Credit: flickr.

LGBT advocates in Oklahoma are celebrating the passage of a major deadline that effectively means that 27 bills that targeted the Sooner State’s LGBT residents are dead for the rest of the regular legislative session. A special session to deal with LGBT-related legislation could be called by Gov. Mary Fallin (R), but so far there are no indications she will do so.

Among the bills that were pushed in Oklahoma this year included a “bathroom bill” similar to others that were introduced in state such as  Tennessee, Virginia, and Washington State, which would have required transgender people to only use the bathroom corresponding to their biological sex at birth. One bill would have allowed business owners to discriminate against LGBT customers by citing “sincerely held religious beliefs,” and another would have sought to amend the Oklahoma Constitution via ballot referendum to ensure religious protections for private business owners and clergy.

The sponsor of the constitutional amendment, State Rep. Mark McCullough (R-Sapulpa), told the Associated Press that he was surprised at the lack of support for a constitutional amendment among religious leaders, saying he did not receive one email, phone call or letter of support from members of the clergy. That could be because some of the protections for clergy, such as being able to refuse to perform same-sex marriages, are already guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. 

Troy Stevens, the director of the LGBT rights group Freedom Oklahoma, said that the failure of leadership in the Republican-dominated legislature to take up LGBT-related bills, or, in some cases, killing them in committee, speaks volumes.

“I just don’t think there’s a will to hear this kind of legislation from either party,” Stevens told the AP. “There are about five legislators who want to keep running this stuff, but most of them see it for the distraction that it is.”

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