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Oklahoma bill could nullify all LGBTQ protections in the state
Say goodbye to anti-discrimination housing and employment policies.
An Oklahoma Senate bill could strip and prevent LGBTQ protections from cities across the state. Instead, city councils would be forced to pass policies “to and in conformity with” the state government’s laws on anti-discrimination matters.
However, according to the ACLU, Oklahoma hosts zero state anti-discrimination protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity. This means, if Senate Bill 694 becomes law, LGBTQ policies across Oklahoma cities could be wiped out.
The bill also bans municipal governments from implementing any ordinance that “conflicts with, expands or is more stringent than a state statute” on discrimination of any form. This would also impact counties and political subdivisions, forcing all forms of local government to rely on the state for discrimination laws, of which, again, there are none.
The bill was originally introduced into the state legislature by Republican Sen. Josh Brecheen. On Monday, the bill passed out of committee to be voted on by the Senate. If passed, the law would go into effect on Nov. 1.
In Tulsa, Oklahoma’s second-largest city, the bill could strike down an employment policy prohibiting discrimination based on an employee’s sexual identity. It would also nullify Tulsa’s Fair Housing Act, which protects Tulsa citizens from housing discrimination for being LGBTQ.
Activists fear the bill will be used to target transgender residents. “More narrowly, SB 694 is specifically intended to target employment and accommodation protections for trans women,” Oklahoma LGBTQ activist Sarah M. Bess said on Twitter. “This continues an ongoing crusade by the OK legislature to criminalize the existence of trans women, following the 2016 RNC resolution.”
OK senate is hearing a bill today to overturn municipal nondiscrimination ordinances in Norman, OKC, and Tulsa.
— Sarah M. Bess (@smbess) February 20, 2017
Freedom Oklahoma’s executive director Troy Stevenson also had strong words against the bill’s measures. “The current assault on the LGBTQ community by a handful of bigoted zealots under the dome at 23rd and Lincoln is a stain upon our state and an embarrassment to every fair-minded Oklahoman,” he said in an official response.”Senators [Joseph] Silk and Brecheen are out of touch with the Oklahoma Standard, and their agenda of bias and discrimination will not be allowed to move forward.”
Silk and Brecheen also coauthored Senate Bill 197, better known as the “Oklahoma Right of Conscience Act.” If passed, the act would allow Oklahoma citizens to refuse “services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges used in marriage ceremony or celebration of a specific lifestyle or behavior” based on “sincerely held religious beliefs or conscience.” Like North Carolina’s HB2, the bill could be used to prevent trans citizens from accessing facilities and accommodations aligned with their gender identity, including bathrooms.
Ana Valens is an LGBTQ reporter and essayist for the Daily Dot. Her work has previously appeared in Bitch, the Establishment, Vice's Waypoint, Rolling Stone's Glixel, and the Toast. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.