Last session, the state of Texas had the distinction of being the state with the most anti-LGBT bills with over 20 pieces of legislation. Fortunately, each one of those bills was defeated. This session, that distinction of (dis)honor belongs to Oklahoma. Their session began this week, and they already have at least 26 anti-LGBT bills, including bills that include religious exemptions that could be used to discriminate. Here is a look at just four of those bills that we are closely tracking:
The bill would actually penalize state employees for following the law. In Obergefell v. Hodges, the Supreme Court held that same-sex couples have a fundamental right to marry. SB 973 disregards this ruling and would actually penalize clerks and government employees by cutting their salary if they “recognize, grant, or enforce” the marriage of a same-sex couple. This bill would not only prohibit a clerk from granting a marriage license to a same-sex couple, but would harm married same-sex couples in other ways. For example, a state employee working at the DMV would be penalized for changing the last name of a person recently married to someone of the same sex.
Oklahoma enacted its RFRA, with language similar to the federal RFRA, back in 2000. This bill would add language to that RFRA to expand its reach and make it easier for both individuals and for-profit companies to override nondiscrimination protections and deny woman access to healthcare.
This is an extremely broad bill that would allow any individual, business, or religious organization to refuse to provide any “services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods or privileges” related to any marriage ceremony or celebration if doing so would conflict with a sincerely held religious belief. This bill would allow clerks to refuse to provide marriage licenses, for-profit business to refuse to sell a wedding dress, and religious organizations that have commercial wedding spaces to refuse to rent their facilities – to any couple – if based on a religious belief. Same-sex, interracial, and interfaith couples, as well as divorcees could be denied services.
This resolution increases the bar and would create a ballot initiative that, if approved by the voters, would amend the Oklahoma Constitution. Similar to SB 1328, it would allow religious organizations, private businesses, and individuals to discriminate against any couple wishing to marry in the name of religion and would protect anyone engaged in discrimination from a lawsuit or action from the government. But what makes this bill even worse (hard to believe that is possible) is that it would also allow child-placement agencies, including agencies receiving state funds, to refuse to “perform, assist, counsel, recommend, consent to, refer or participate in a placement” if it violates the agency’s religious or moral convictions. This means that child placement agencies would be permitted to put their religious beliefs ahead of the best interest of a child seeking a safe, loving, and happy family.
These are just 4 of the more than 25 anti-LGBT bills that Oklahoma has to offer this session. Hopefully, like in Texas, all of these bills will all be defeated. Keep track here.