Two LGBTQ Bills died in the state Senate Thursday. Gay rights advocates say it’s a sign the tide is shifting in the legislature.
The first bill would have stripped Tulsa, Oklahoma City and Norman’s ability to protect against discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation in housing and employment. It also would have prevented other municipalities from passing similar ordinances.
“This bill is a bad bill for this body, it’s a bad bill for this state, and it’s a bad bill for our future,” Senator Lonnie Paxton (R) District 23.
Opponents sparred with supporters over whether Senate Bill 694 was right for Oklahoma.
“For the last summer and fall, I spent that time knocking doors on thousands of Oklahoma citizens. I never had one person open doors and say pass a bill like this. They said fix our economy. Fix our schools. Fix our state,” said Senator Paxton.
Senator David Holt (R) District 30 added, “I ask you to reject this bill as another power grab to seize power from local governments, give it to this building where it doesn’t belong.”
Senator Nathan Dahm (R) Majority Whip responded, “It should be about local input. I’m fine with local input but we should not relegate our authority or delegate or give up our authority for the sake of quote unquote local control.”
Bill author Senator Josh Brecheen (R) District 6 argued it protects those who have religious or moral objections to working with or living with those in the LGBTQ community.
“Many of the things that some of us have campaigned not just once but multiple times and have taken on these very tough subject matters, this is a test,” said Senator Brecheen.
After the bill was defeated, Senator Joseph Silk pulled his bill that would have allowed business owners to refuse to do business with anyone based on marriage, lifestyle or behavior. LGBTQ advocates are hailing it as a victory.
“It was a huge victory,” said Troy Stevenson with Freedom Oklahoma. “It sent a strong message. I believe that 25 senators finally, for the first time, took a stand on the floor, they debated and strongly said that they rejected discrimination in Oklahoma.”