Oklahoma Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt signed an executive order directing state agencies to use narrow, biological-based definitions of “female” and “male” for the purposes of collecting vital statistics, legal matters, administrative rulings and decisions, and interpreting laws.
The order requires all state agencies, boards, and commissions to define the words “female” and “male” based on a person’s assigned sex at birth, as based on their biological anatomy. A female is defined as a “person whose biological reproductive system is designed to produce ova” and a male is defined as a “person whose biological reproductive system is designed to fertilize the ova of a female.”
The order also includes gender-specific designations for the words “man,” “boy,” “woman,” “girl,” “father,” and “mother.”
Under the executive order, all schools and state agencies must adhere to those definitions, even when complying with federal reporting requirements on public health, crime, or economic data. All schools and agencies must also provide separate, sex-segregated spaces — including restrooms, locker rooms, changing facilities or prison housing — for males and females.
“Today we’re taking a stand against this out-of-control gender ideology that is eroding the very foundation of our society,” Stitt said in prepared remarks just prior to signing the executive order, which supporters have dubbed “The Women’s Bill of Rights.”
Stitt was surrounded by representatives of the anti-transgender group Independent Women’s Voice, which proposed the language of the order, and Riley Gaines, a former University of Kentucky swimmer who is best known for opposing transgender participation in sports. Gaines has made a career out of anti-trans activism, which was prompted by her personal grievances stemming from having to compete against transgender swimmer Lia Thomas at the 2022 NCAA Division I Swimming and Diving Championships.
“We are going to be safeguarding the very essence of what it means to be a woman,” Stitt said, according to the Associated Press. “Oklahomans are fed up with attempts to confuse the word ‘woman’ and turn it into some kind of ambiguous definition that harms real women.”
Stitt also bragged that the executive order would prevent transgender women and girls from entering “women-only” spaces in Oklahoma, such as restrooms and locker rooms — despite there already being a law that bars them from accessing sex-segregated spaces.
“I am taking decisive executive action to ensure the true definition of the word woman, meaning a biological woman, is what guides the state as we reaffirm our commitment to ensuring the safety, dignity, and sanctity of women across Oklahoma,” Stitt said, according to The Hill. “As long as I’m governor, we will continue to protect women and ensure women-only spaces are reserved solely for biological women.”
Stitt’s executive order copies executive orders or laws in other states that define sex and gender-specific terms based on a person’s assigned sex at birth, which critics say are an attempt to erase protections for transgender and gender-nonconforming people from law and deny the existence of transgender identity as valid. States with such laws include Kansas, Tennessee, North Dakota, and Montana.
Freedom Oklahoma, the state’s LGBTQ rights organization, blasted Stitt’s order as a “thinly veiled attack” that codifies discrimination against transgender women.
“This executive order order is neither about rights, nor is it about protecting women,” Nicole McAfee, the executive director of Freedom Oklahoma, said in a statement.
Stitt has consistently opposed expansions of transgender rights or acknowledgment of LGBTQ visibility . He previously signed an executive order in 2021 barring transgender people from amending the gender listed on their original birth certificates, and signed a complementary bill last year prohibiting nonbinary gender markers on state-issued birth certificates.
Stitt also signed a bill earlier this year making it a felony crime for doctors to provide gender-affirming treatments to transgender minors. The state was subsequently sued over the law, with the state’s attorney general ultimately agreeing to a binding non-enforcement agreement with the ACLU of Oklahoma that prohibits the state from enforcing the law’s provisions until the matter is resolved in the courts.
Last year, Stitt signed a measure prohibiting transgender girls and women from playing on female sports teams, and another measure preventing transgender children from using school restrooms that match their gender identity, which is also being challenged in court.
Oklahoma State Rep. Mauree Turner (D-Oklahoma City), the first openly nonbinary person elected to the state legislature, slammed Stitt and the state government of silencing communities, including the transgender community, to avoid tackling real issues. Turner was censured by their fellow lawmakers after being accused of hiding a protester against an anti-trans bill in their office after the person had gotten into an altercation with an Oklahoma Highway Patrol trooper. Turner argues they were giving the person time to collect themselves and get their affairs in order, including arranging for bail, before turning themselves over to law enforcement, according to The 19th.
“I do wonder if Kevin Stitt ever gets tired of making a mockery, not only of the state, but also himself,” Turner tweeted on the platform formerly known as Twitter. “This separate, and unequal executive order signed here in Oklahoma couldn’t be further disconnected with what Oklahoma[n]s need.”
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