Metro Weekly

Oklahoma Republican Publicly Calls LGBTQ People “Filth”

Oklahoma State senator Tom Woods publicly says that LGBTQ people are "filth" and should should leave the state.

Oklahoma State Senator Tom Woods – Photo: Oklahoma State Senate

An Oklahoma state senator said during a public forum that LGBTQ people are “filth” and that he and his constituents don’t want them in the state.

State Sen. Tom Woods (R-Westville) made the comments last week at a public forum in Tahlequah, where he and three other lawmakers were answering questions from the audience.

One of the audience members, Cathy Cott, asked a two-part question, the first about why Ryan Walters, the state superintendent of public instruction, was “bullying” school districts and referring to teachers as “terrorists.”

Cott then addded, “Why does the Legislature have such an obsession with the LGBTQ citizens of Oklahoma and what people do in their personal lives and how they raise their children?”

All four elected officials answered the first part of Cott’s question, but declined to answer the second question until Cott stood up and demanded an answer, according to the Tahlequah Daily Press

“Is there a reason why you won’t answer about the 50 bills targeting the LGBTQ community in the state of Oklahoma?” Cott said. “If you are ashamed of those bills, they shouldn’t be there.”

She noted that 16-year-old Nex Benedict, a nonbinary student at Owasso High School, had died following an altercation in the girls’ bathroom.

While the medical examiner has not yet released the cause of Benedict’s death, initial reports from police appeared to suggest that Benedict was not killed by injuries suffered during the fight.

However, a police spokesperson later told the news outlet Popular Information that their initial statement attempted to diffuse anger over Benedict’s death following threats against the school. The police spokesperson admitted that the cause of death had not yet been determined and that the possibility of bringing murder charges had not yet been ruled out.

Woods responded to Cott’s question, saying that while his “heart goes out” to the teen’s family following their death, his support for measures that others may deem anti-LGBTQ is based on his conservative values and those of his constituents.

“We are a Republican state — supermajority — in the House and Senate,” Woods said. “I represent a constituency that doesn’t want that filth in Oklahoma.”

Some audience members clapped at the statement, while others appeared stunned.

“We are a religious state and we are going to fight it to keep that filth out of the state of Oklahoma because we are a Christian state — we are a moral state,” Woods continued, referring to visible manifestations of LGBTQ identity.

“We want to lower taxes and let people be able to live and work and go to the faith they choose. We are a Republican state and I’m going to vote my district, and I’m going to vote my values, and we don’t want that in the state of Oklahoma.”

Fellow State Sen. Dewayne Pemberton (R-Muskogee) did not respond to Cott’s question during the forum, but later partially defended Woods, telling the Daily Press he didn’t believe legislators hold any animosity towards the LGBTQ community.

“Legislators represent their constituents and their desires. More often, it’s the majority of the constituents they represent. Legislators can never satisfy all people all the time,” he said, adding that he could not confirm the number of bills restricting LGBTQ rights that Cott claimed had been introduced in the Oklahoma Legislature.

Still other Republicans criticized Woods, with Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat calling the “filth” remark inappropriate.

“His remarks were not in any way reflective of myself, the Senate Republican caucus, Senate leadership, or the Senate overall. In my opinion, he had a serious lapse of judgment,” Treat told Oklahoma City ABC affiliate KOCO.

State Labor Commissioner Leslie Osborn said Woods’s comment “disgusted” her.

“A faction emerged within the [Republican] party characterized by hate and divisiveness, overshadowing the principles the party once held dear,” Osborn said in a statement. “We should rise above spewing hate and legislating condemnation for every citizen who does not look like us, vote like us worship like us or identify or love like us.”

But Woods told KOCO that he stands by his initial comments.

“I stand behind what I believe in,” he said in a statement. “The groups and individuals who push gender reassignment on children in our schools, and anyone else who is trying to normalize behavior that shouldn’t be tolerated, is unacceptable in my mind.”

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