There has been an avalanche of anti-gay rights legislation proposed by Oklahoma lawmakers for the upcoming session that starts Monday.
— Kurt Hochenauer (@okiefunk) January 28, 2016
The legislation ranges from the innocuous and meaningless—a who-really-cares resolution condemning the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage—to the extremely harmful. One bill sponsored by the infamous gay-bashing state Rep. Sally Kern (R-Oklahoma City), for example, would prohibit school counselors from discussing sexuality with students without permission from their parents.
What if a student is curious about their sexual orientation, but can’t speak to their parents about it without severe punishment or condemnation, which could even lead to the child’s homelessness and/or abuse?
In all, twenty-six or so bills that can be considered attacks on the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) community have been introduced in Oklahoma. It must be a record number for any state this year or at least an extremely large number of bills. A Slate.com headline over a story about all the bills calls it “ . . . almost too crazy to believe.” The minute focus and sheer number of the bills is so myopic and obsessive it seems like a collective manifestation of a mental illness or disorder. I don’t say this in jest: Scholars should truly study the psychological dynamics of this current particular situation because it seems to transcend simple political opportunism or even distorted right-wing religious beliefs.
Beyond the question I raise about the psychological underpinnings of the anti-LGBT obsession, was all this to be expected in a backwards place like Oklahoma? Is it surprising? Is it simply right-wing backlash to the high court’s recent ruling to legalize same-sex marriage here? If so, it does seem over the top in quantity and scope even given the state’s rampant religious fundamentalism and the ubiquity of the Southern Baptist Church here.
— Tom George (@TheTomGeorge) January 26, 2016
The state faces a growing $1 billion shortfall for next fiscal year and a current revenue failure. The state is also dealing with a major earthquake crisis because of the fracking process. The state has a teacher shortage while our educational systems, again, face massive cuts. Our mental health system faces steep cuts.
Oklahoma has tremendous problems right now. Rising equality for Oklahoma’s LGBT community is definitely NOT a problem. It’s just the opposite. It’s long overdue, and it’s a bright spot in what is shaping up otherwise to be a fiscally dismal year for the state.
The organization Freedom Oklahoma has a complete rundown on all the anti-LGBT legislation. According to its director Troy Stevenson on the organization’s web site:
Our community is under attack, and we are fighting back. We won marriage last year, and in retaliation, a tiny handful of lawmakers have lashed out at us with an unprecedented amount of discriminatory legislation. Freedom Oklahoma – along with our local and national partners – will not rest until all of these bills are defeated. Together we are bigger. Together we are stronger. And together we will win!
For the most part, any legislation that doesn’t directly address the state’s financial problems this year is really wasted time and wasted taxpayer money. Some of the proposed legislation, if passed and signed into law, could lead to costly taxpayer-funded lawsuits with the chance for legal victory for the state virtually non-existent.
What this tells us on one level is that the fight for equality here and elsewhere is far from over. It’s going to take a lot more action and probably a lot more time to get it right here. But as more cultural tolerance for LGBT-rights and positive media depictions of the LGBT community grow so will victories for equality in Oklahoma and elsewhere.