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Eye on the Right: Attempting to Block Protections for Gay Community, OK Sen. Removes Hate Crime Protections for Race & Religion

Right-wing legislators often disassociate gay rights from civil rights, yet their actions demonstrate that hate against one group can inevitably lead to the same toward another.  Take Oklahoma, where several right-wing lawmakers were livid following President Barack Obama's signing of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act in October, extending federal hate crimes protections to the gay and lesbian community. 

Oklahoma Sen. Steve Russell stated that he did not want protection for "a special class of people" and feared that religious leaders that spoke out against certain lifestyle choices would be "imprisoned for their speech."  He led a successful effort to approve SB1965, which prohibits state law enforcement from sharing information regarding hate crimes with federal officials if the state does not recognize the crime as such through its statutes.  As the state does not recognize sexual orientation or gender identity in its hate crime law, this bill essentially intended to block protection of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community in Oklahoma.  However, the legislation cites the wrong statute--rather than Title 18 USC Section 249, which references sexual orientation and gender identity, the state Senate incorrectly cited Section 245 in the bill, which provides protections for race and religion. 

As Sen. Minority Leader Andrew Rice related, “[g]ay and lesbian citizens should be upset because someone tried to take their rights away, but minority groups should be concerned that their rights have already been voted to be taken away by the Senate."  The legislation has yet to be voted on in the House and the Equality Network is working diligently against this bill.  But, this action is indicative of continuing right-wing efforts to deny protections to the gay community and subvert the fact that LGBT rights are inextricably linked to both civil and human rights.

Resources:
Center for American Progress - In Seeking To Strip LGBT Oklahomans of Hate Crimes Protections, Oklahoma Removes Protections for Race and Religion
The Equality Network - TEN Reacts to Oklahoma Senate Obstructing Federal Hate Crimes Law
The Oklahoma Daily - Lawmaker Says Hate Crimes Bill Contains Error
American Civil Liberties Union - LBGT Rights