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Oklahoma’s only nonbinary state lawmaker, Rep. Mauree Turner (D-OKC), was censured by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives on Tuesday and stripped of all their committee assignments. It comes after Rep. Turner was accused of allowing a trans Oklahoman to hide in their office.
In a party-line vote of 81-19, Republicans sought to make an example out of Rep. Turner, the first and only publicly nonbinary state lawmaker in Oklahoma history.
“The Oklahoma House of Representatives today censored one of its members for impeding a law enforcement investigation into an alleged assault on a fellow member and an Oklahoma Highway Patrol that took place in the Capitol last week,” House GOP said in a statement.
GOP takes aim at nonbinary state lawmaker
Democrats immediately responded to the measure by holding a press conference. Rep Turner, who is Black and Muslim, told media outlets that they were given an ultimatum: apologize to law enforcement or be censured.
“I think an apology for loving the people of Oklahoma is something that I cannot do,” Rep Turner, who was first elected in 2020, said. “I will never apologize for showing up fully and freely as myself. I will never apologize for allowing the people of Oklahoma to show up fully and freely as themselves because that is the work that they elected me to do.”
House Democratic Leader Cyndi Munson said Rep. Turner did not impede the investigation or prevent law enforcement from performing their duties. Rep. Turner cooperated fully and completely with the investigation, Munson said.
“I just provide my office as space of grace and love for all the folks in all communities that seek refuge from the hate in this building,” Rep. Turner said in a statement. “Trans people don’t feel safe here. I receive death threats. I am a target daily in this building, yet I am silenced.”
“Healthcare for me but not for thee”
On Tuesday, Feb. 28, a transgender Oklahoman was arrested while expressing outrage after the House passed HB 2177, a bill that bans best practice gender affirming care for youth.
The bill bans healthcare professionals from providing or attempting to provide a referral for puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones and gender reassignment surgeries for minors, FOX 25 reported. In addition, it also targets trans adults in Oklahoma by limiting or preventing health insurance plans from providing access to such treatments at any age.
Outraged at the legislature attacking their very existence, one trans Oklahoman allegedly threw water at Rep. Bob Ed Culver (R-Tahlequah) and resisted being detained by a state trooper. Republicans are accusing the them of taking shelter in Rep. Mauree Turner’s office.
“This member knowingly and willfully impeded a law enforcement investigation, harboring a fugitive, and repeatedly lying to officers,” House Speaker Charles McCall (R-Atoka) said in a statement shared by KFOR’s Nick Camper.
Comparing water to a deadly weapon and comparing resisting arrest to assault on a law enforcement officer, House Republicans have taken aim at the only lawmaker whose very existence defies their anti-LGBTQIA+ legislation.
At Tuesday’s press conference, Rep. Turner stressed the difficulty for trans individuals to process having their rights to bodily autonomy and healthcare stripped away.
“Everyday that I get to live past being 10, that I get to live past being 12, 15, 18, 20, 25, and 30, and so much more, is a blessing. A lot of trans folks don’t get that. That’s what we’re actively fighting against,” Rep. Turner said.
Trans lives don’t matter to House GOP
The legislature has passed or considered bills targeting best practice medical care for trans youth and adults, ignoring the recommendations from major medical associations. By stripping Rep. Turner of their committee assignments, Republicans have effectively silenced the only voice representing nonbinary Oklahomans in their district and across the state.
Even so-called “moderate” Republicans, such as Daniel Pae (R-Lawton) and state Senator John Montgomery (R-Lawton), have voted with their far-right colleagues to criminalize transgender and non-heteronormative identities.
According to a recent poll from the Trevor Project, a suicide prevention organization for LGBTQ+ young people, the bills targeting trans individuals have a negative impact on their mental health.
Data shows bills cause damage to trans, nonbinary mental health
Released in January, the poll found 86% of transgender and nonbinary youth say recent debates around anti-trans bills have negatively impacted their mental health. It also found 45% of trans youth experienced cyberbullying as a result of these policies and debates, with 1 in 3 reporting feeling unsafe going to the doctor or hospital when they’re sick.
“We’re actively fighting” to make Oklahoma a place where all Oklahomans, including trans Oklahomans, can live and thrive, Rep. Turner added on Tuesday.
For his part, Rep. Monroe Nichols (D-Tulsa) refuted the claim that there was ever any investigation or that Rep. Turner committed any crime.
“What happened at the end of the day is that the troopers were able to do their job, the law was enforced and there was never any point where Rep. Turner broke a law,” Rep. Nichols said.
“It is dangerous that we, now at this point in the legislature, have set a precedent that a member can be censured without any investigation, without any conversation with that member, just because the majority wants to do that.”
“People are threatening to bomb and murder us everyday”
Recently, Tulsa City Council passed a watered down resolution affirming support for all residents. It was designed to uplift the trans and LGBTQ community, but after fierce opposition, language specifying gender identity and expression was removed.
Speaking at the meeting on March 1, a trans teenager cried as they explained the toll that hatred brings on their peers.
“People are threatening to bomb and murder us everyday. I have friends who have overdosed at school just because kids threatened to murder them,” they said.
Meanwhile, FOX 25’s Wendy Suares pointed out the apparent hypocrisy in censuring Rep. Mauree Turner for allegedly giving refuge to a trans individual when two sitting members of the legislature currently face felony charges.
In December, Rep. Ryan Martinez (R-Edmond) was charged with a felony for allegedly driving while intoxicated. Meanwhile, Rep. Terry O’Donnell recently resigned as House Speaker Pro Tempore and turned himself in to police. It came after he was indicted for allegedly misusing his power to change state laws so that his wife could become a tag agent.
“What is the difference between those members, who were subject to an investigation, who were indicted by a grand jury, no punishment. What is the difference between them and Rep. Turner? Might it be that they’re a different gender, different religion, different race?” Rep Nichols said on Tuesday.
“The people of House District 88 don’t need committee work to understand the things that we’re fighting for in this building. We are building something that they fear, and that is collective love,” Rep. Turner said.
To seek mental health support, cal Trans Lifeline at 877-565-8860, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text START to 678-678, or call the LGBT Hotline 888-843-4564.