Metro Weekly

Oklahoma Is About to Ban Pride Flags and Celebrations

Oklahoma Republicans introduce the "Patriotism Not Pride Act," which would prevent government entities from funding Pride celebrations.

Photo Illustration by Todd Franson

A proposed bill in Oklahoma seeks to ban any celebration or official recognition of Pride Month or LGBTQ identity, marking yet another measure aimed at reducing LGBTQ visibility. 

The “Patriotism Not Pride Act,” sponsored by State Rep. Kevin West (R-Moore) and Sen. David Bullard (R-Durant), would prohibit state agencies from spending taxpayer dollars to “develop, organize, administer, engage in, promote, or endorse any activity, including any event, initiative, official communication, social media post, educational program, or public campaign, that aims to promote or recognize Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex Pride Month or any event with a similar theme.”

The bill bans all LGBTQ Pride flags from being displayed on state grounds or property.

It also declares a “state of emergency,” asserting that the restrictions are “immediately necessary for the preservation of the public peace, health or safety.” As a result, if the bill passes, its provisions would take effect immediately upon being signed into law. 

The measure is one of more than 400 anti-LGBTQ bills, including 54 in Oklahoma, that have been introduced as part of the 2024 legislative session in 40 separate states.

Unlike other states, which target a host of flags expressing so-called “political” viewpoints, Oklahoma’s bill specifically targets displays of LGBTQ pride or identity — whether in flag form or not. 

The bill’s prohibitions also prevent LGBTQ groups from requesting government grants, financial assistance, or permits to hold LGBTQ Pride events in public spaces.

The House State Powers Committee approved the proposed ban by a 7-2 vote. It is expected to pass the Republican-dominated House of Representatives easily.

West told NBC News in an email that he authored the bill “because Oklahoma taxpayer dollars should not be used to promote or recognize activities that are not in line with the values of most Oklahomans.”

He argued that his bill does not violate constitutional rights, saying that LGBTQ-affiliated groups and other groups impacted by the ban “would still have the freedom to express their views or opinions or tell the world about their lifestyle choices, they would simply not be able to use state resources to do so.”

West told The Oklahoman that he was prompted to introduce the bill after seeing banners on state agency websites promoting Pride Month, and felt such displays needed to be dropped to protect the rights of people who hold sincerely held beliefs opposing homosexuality and do not wish to see that content on state-sponsored websites.

But Nicole McAfee, the executive director of the LGBTQ advocacy group Freedom Oklahoma, said that the bill is “clearly designed to chill speech, and further disrupt the ability of Oklahoma agencies to serve” the LGBTQ community.

“We’re everywhere — small towns, big cities, on tribal land, and everywhere in between,” McAfee told NBC News. “We make up communities, and even work for the state. You can’t ban us or disappear us, and it’s a shame that Rep. Kevin West is continuing his obsessive focus on targeting and isolating [two-spirit and LGBTQ] Oklahomans with [this] latest attack. And yet, we’ve always been here and will always be here, during pride and beyond.”

In a statement, Cindy Nguyen, the policy director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma, said the bill is both “vague and discriminatory” and could be ruled unconstitutional if challenged in the courts.

“Rainbow flags, Pride flags, and other symbols celebrating 2LGBTQ+ pride are a protected form of free speech and have been used to [instill] a sense of community across the country,” Nguyen said.

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