Legislation known as Senate Bill 694 could strip vital protections from LGBTQ Oklahomans as it possibly advances in the state.
SB 694 would bar cities in Oklahoma from offering expanded protections to LGBTQ residents that the state itself currently fails to provide. Additionally, it would nullify Tulsa’s Fair Housing Act, which bans landlords from denying housing to people based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The Tulsa City Council passed the act in 2015 in the wake of 40 years of advocacy for fair housing laws fought for by the LGBTQ community.
The bill, drafted by State Sen. Josh Brecheen (R-District 6), also seeks to undermine crucial non-discrimination ordinances in Oklahoma City and Norman.
LGBTQ advocacy groups and allies across the state are vilifying SB 694 for its inherent bias against the community and the damage it would inflict on its members.
“The current assault on the LGBTQ community by a handful of bigoted zealots under the dome at 23rd and Lincoln is a stain upon our state and an embarrassment to every fair-minded Oklahoman,” said Freedom Oklahoma Executive Director Troy Stevenson in a statement. “Freedom Oklahoma and our allies will spare no expense to stop this bigotry in its tracks. We will not allow our community to be used as a distraction from Oklahoma’s fiscal crisis, and we will fight to our last breath to prove that Oklahoma is a state that doesn’t hate. Senators Silk and Brecheen are out of touch with the Oklahoma Standard, and their agenda of bias and discrimination will not be allowed to move forward.”
Toby Jenkins, executive director of Oklahomans for Equality, also weighed in on the anti-LGBTQ bill, saying, “Oklahoma State Senator Brecheen’s Senate Bill 694 is discrimination. He admits it is, but does not want it called discrimination, because that means it comes from a place of hate. He wants the LGBTQ community to believe his desire to strip municipalities’ and county-elected officials’ power to enact anti-discrimination ordinances is an act of love. Local municipal and county leaders across the state are working to create inclusive and welcoming cities and counties, because the state senators and representatives refuse to make it unlawful to discriminate against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer people. Senator Brecheen is saying loud and clear, ‘Tulsa, you are not being mean enough to your gay and transgender people.’ Oklahomans for Equality will oppose Senate Bill 694 and hope our elected officials will condemn any bill that strips their authority.”
The bill now heads to the full state senate for a vote.
State Sen. Brecheen also co-authored a separate senate bill that could rescind protections for LGBTQ people in Oklahoma: Senate Bill 197, which would allow individuals to refuse “any services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods or privileges used in a marriage ceremony or celebration of a specific lifestyle or behavior” they believe contradicts their “sincerely held religious beliefs or conscience.”
Freedom Oklahoma described that bill as “worse than HB 2 in North Carolina.”