Senator Steve Russell's Comments on Hate Crimes Law Stir Controversy

Thursday, November 19th 2009, 11:47 pm
By: News 9

By Rusty Surette, NEWS 9

OKLAHOMA CITY -- An Oklahoma state senator said he's getting hate mail after speaking out about the new federal hate crimes law. His comments on sexual orientation have also ignited a firestorm of controversy, but he said he was misquoted.

Senator Steve Russell said he wants to help set the record straight.

"It's just laughable," Russell said.

The Republican from Oklahoma City said he's been misquoted in an article printed by The Oklahoma Daily, the campus paper for the University of Oklahoma.

In the article, the Senator said he's proposing a bill that would allow Oklahoma to opt-out of the new federal hate crimes law that extends protections to gays and lesbians, but Senator Russell claims he never said that.

Read The Oklahoma Daily's article.

Instead he said he wants to enhance the state's existing law.

"What this is is the strengthening of our Oklahoma law to make sure pastors, rabbis and assembly groups of any belief can be protected," Senator Russell said.

Russell said he is concerned that the new federal hate crimes law will silence religious leaders who speak-out against the homosexual lifestyle.

"There's not absolute guarantee on people's speech assembly and beliefs," he said, referring to the newly enacted law signed last month by President Obama.

Senator Russell said he's getting angry reaction because of a comment he made regarding necrophilia as a sexual orientation, but the lawmaker said he was just trying to prove a point.

"In the federal law, they use the term 'sexual orientation.' My comment was that sexual orientation is not defined, and it needs to be," Russell said. "If we're to go with the American Psychiatric Association definition, it has 30 sub-set definitions to include things like necrophilia."

Senator Russell said his office has been bombarded with vulgar hate mail, e-mails and phones calls because of the article and this issue, which he said is ironic considering this deals with the hate crimes law.

The editor of the Oklahoma Daily, Jaime Hughes, told NEWS 9 Senator Russell's office has yet to contact her or her staff regarding the accuracy of the article, and at this point, she stands by it.