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OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. – In response to the advancement of HB 2546 on Tuesday, a bill drafted in the same spirit as Florida’s Don’t Say Gay/Trans law that has now been copied and pasted in states across the country, Freedom Oklahoma and Rep Mauree Turner issued the following statement:
“As was noted again and again on the floor today, HB 2546 chills speech in Oklahoma schools with ambiguous language and open-ended enforcement mechanisms. When the current state department of education administration is using its power to revoke the teaching license of a former Oklahoma high school teacher for sharing a QR code to a library resource page, educators have good reason to worry about this and similar policies rooted in surveillance culture and censorship,” said Nicole McAfee, Executive Director of Freedom Oklahoma.
As if in a race with other conservative states to see who can target marginalized groups most severely, the Oklahoma legislature has drafted, passed or considered over 40 bills that restrict the rights of LGBTQ+ residents. Freedom Oklahoma has been following the bills closely, with regular updates on social media.
Freedom Oklahoma condemns legislation targeting LGBTQ+ Oklahomans
“HB 2546 hijacks public education for partisan political purposes, threatening the ability of schools to be places where all students are treated with respect, have access to safety, and receive equal access to a quality education,” McAfee said. “Anti-2SLGBTQ+ curriculum laws perpetuate a stereotype of 2SLGBTQ+ people as a dangerous, immoral class of people from whom other students must be shielded. We have seen this same rhetoric recycled again and again, whether Anita Bryant or Representative O’Donnell’s name is tied to the quote.”
Despite being censured by the Republicans in the state House, Rep. Mauree Turner (D-OKC), the state’s first and only Muslim and nonbinary lawmaker, has remained vocal about the damage these bills are causing their community and communities across the state.
“I know well from personal experience the culture of harm, fear, and shame that comes with censorship. I experience it each day as my colleagues continue to censure me, and threaten me for standing up for the rights and safety of trans constituents in the Capitol,” Rep. Turner of House District 88 said in a statement.
“HB 2546 stigmatizes and discriminates against 2SLGBTQ+ students by treating them differently than other students in the classroom. Other students are not subjected to the suggestion that something about their identity is inappropriate for classroom discussion, but under this law, 2SLGBTQ+ youth will be.”
State Senate to consider bill
Sponsored by Rep. Terry O’Donnell (R-HD23), the bill states “classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity shall not occur in prekindergarten through grade five or in a manner that is not age appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students.”
The bill’s language leaves room for schools to be forbidden from discussing sexual orientation or gender through high school if parents or administrators deem it inappropriate. It’s unclear whether students would be free to share their personal identities or experiences with teachers or whether LGBTQ+ teachers would be criminalized if they, for instance, have a picture of their spouse on their desk.
“I named on the floor that teachers are leaving, doctors are leaving, families are leaving. Because they are afraid to live in a state with legislators like this. I want 2SLGBTQ+ youth, families, educators, doctors, adults, to all feel safe in Oklahoma. But, until that safety is real, I understand why people must leave. And I’ll keep fighting, in and beyond the Legislature, for schools and medical settings and Capitol buildings and an Oklahoma where all 2SLGBTQ+ folks have the safety to thrive,” Rep. Turner said.
HB 2546 advanced from the Oklahoma House on Tuesday by a vote of 79-19 along party lines. It will next move to the Oklahoma Senate to be assigned to a committee.