ASLUT POLICY RADAR: LGBT+ Edition
In Oklahoma, it’s not always easy to be “Out and Proud.”
Legislative processes move slowly in this Bible-Belt state where politicians are caught in the endless debate over the line between individual expression and religious freedom. The painful pace of progress can pose challenges for LGBT+ Oklahomans.
Just 18 years ago, same-sex sexual activity was legalized in Oklahoma following the landmark Lawrence V. Texas Supreme Court decision which struck down sodomy laws across the country.
To this day, Oklahoma has no state-wide protection against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
Compiled here are just a few things to know in the ongoing battle for equality in Oklahoma.
In mid-April of this year, SB331 was passed in the House and moved to the Senate. The so-called “Save Women’s Sports” Act aims to ban transgender youth from playing on sports teams aligned with their gender identity. This bill is part of a terrifying series of Oklahoma legislation aimed at trans individuals.
In his weekly capitol report, Representative Justin Humphrey voiced support for the bill, saying “transgenders have a mental health condition.”
Sports is not the only field on which the fight for equality is played. The House and Senate are lodging a campaign against trans bodily autonomy and trans accessible healthcare.
If passed, SB583 will prohibit gender affirmation surgery, hormone therapy, and “interventions to alleviate symptoms of clinically significant distress resulting from gender dysphoria,” for anyone under the age of 18.
The bill also specifies punishment for doctors who provide such care. SB583 will make access to quality trans healthcare virtually nonexistent for minors in the state of Oklahoma.
Another bill, SB676, goes further, prohibiting trans healthcare for anyone under the age of 21. This bill will make it a felony for patients who seek such care or doctors and parents or guardians who assist in providing such care.
Housing and Employment Discrimination
Housing and Employment discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity are not currently protected in the state of Oklahoma. This is subject to change under pending federal legislation following the 2020 landmark Bostock V. Clayton County Supreme Court ruling in which the court moved to expand the 1964 Civil Rights Act employment protections to gay and transgender individuals.
On February 24, 2021, President Biden signed an executive order extending housing discrimation protections to LGBT+ individuals.
While these federal protections show marked improvements in the country’s LGBT+ rights legislation, Oklahoma has yet to write them into its own, existing laws.
Oklahoma legislators will follow HB1775, the bill that aimed to ban Critical Race Theory and gender and diversity training from schools, with a similar bill.
HB1888 aims to expand the prohibition of sexual and gender diversity training to any “public body” (i.e. anywhere supported in part or full by public funds). This includes public offices, committees, commissions, advisory groups, task forces, and study groups.
Removing such training leaves LGBT+ individual vulnerable while keeping the non-LGBT+ public in a persisting and damning shadow of ignorance.
Good things on the horizon?
There are bills to support in the coming year. SB2924 would add sexual orientation as a protected class under the state’s hate crime law.
Check out the legislative agenda on the Oklahomans for Equality website for a comprehensive list of 2021 legislation to watch out for.