Oklahoma Legislator Wants to Nullify Gay Rights Ordinances
Remember Oklahoma state representative Mike Reynolds (R-Oklahoma City) who wanted to reinstate DADT for the state’s National Guard? Since that’s been blocked, Reynolds has found a new target: he wants to ban local ordinances from exceeding state-wide nondiscrimination protections and protecting people based on their sexuality or gender identity.
State Rep. Mike Reynolds, R-Oklahoma City, introduced House Bill 2245 to limit nondiscrimination ordinances for municipal employees by restricting those protections to only those also provided for state employees under Oklahoma statute. If approved, the act would become effective Nov. 1.
HB 2245 is scheduled to be heard by the House Judiciary Committee on Monday. Calls seeking comment from Rep. Reynolds Friday were not returned.
Leaders from several equality groups, including ACLU-Oklahoma, The Equality Network, Oklahomans for Equality, and Cimarron Alliance joined their voices on Friday in condemning HB 2245, saying the measure would strike down nondiscrimination policies for municipal employees that include classes not protected under state employee nondiscrimination policies.
Current state law does not protect people on grounds of marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or political affiliation.
Oklahoma City added sexual orientation and gender identity to its nondiscrimination provisions in November and was quietly celebrated at the time for this very important move. The Human Rights Campaign has since been working with several other local officials including those in Norman City in order to pass further LGBT-inclusive ordinances. This bill would of course nullify that.
Several groups have strongly condemned the Reynolds bill.
Some elected officials and activists were quick to speak out against his latest proposal. “I am surprised that Representative Reynolds is contradicting his conservative beliefs, which would not have government interfering on local decisions,” Norman City Council member Tom Kovach told the Transcript. “How a municipality makes decisions about its employee policy should be strictly up to local control.”
Ryan Kiesel, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma, issued a press release saying, “It is bad enough when short-sighted politicians and demagogues stand in the way of progress, but it is even more offensive when those same forces conspire to take away civil rights that have already been won.”
Rep Mike Reynolds’ previous DADT bill was stymied by Speaker Kris Steele. It is unclear whether Speaker Steele will take such action over this bill.
This bill is of course modeled on legislation that was rushed through the Tennessee Legislature last year in order to prevent Nashville from enacting LGBT protections. There is now a lawsuit in progress over that law.
Nebraska legislators have also attempted to pass similar legislation, though it appears at this stage that the bill has floundered in the state Senate.