Tuesday, August 1st 2023, 6:25 pm
Surrounded by female doctors, athletes and business leaders, Governor Kevin Stitt became the first governor to sign an executive order for the Women's Bill of Rights.
Stitt calls this “boldly standing by women” but many lawmakers are questioning whether this order actually makes any changes.
“Today we're taking a stand against this out of control gender ideology,” said Governor Stitt.
This order gives a legal definition to “male” versus “female,” according to biological reproductive systems.
Stitt said this order is intended to provide “clarity, certainty, and uniformity to administrative actions and rules.”
“To extend our protection of women at the state level,” said Stitt.
But Minority Leader Cindy Munson calls the executive order a distraction.
“It's unclear what this executive order would actually do. It's a ploy, it's a stunt, it's to bring attention to him,” said Rep. Munson (D-OKC). “What he's telling us is the government tells us who we are, we don't tell the government who we are.”
It requires state agencies, boards and commissions to use the legal definitions of “male” and “female.” That includes domestic shelters, prisons, locker rooms and bathrooms.
“Single-sex spaces are reserved for biological males and biological females but not both,” said Somerlyn Cothran, Vice President of Independent Women's Voice.
Two bills with similar language to the order were proposed this session, but never made it across the finish line to be signed into law. One bill came from each chamber, but they both stalled in committees.
“This wasn't a priority for the legislature, meaning it wasn't a priority for most of our constituents,” said Rep. Munson.
Hasenbeck and Garvin introduced House Bill 1449 and Senate Bill 408. The bills made it out of their chamber of origin, so they are eligible to be brought up in the 2024 legislative session.
They released a joint statement saying:
"We are both immensely relieved to see the Women's Bill of Rights take effect in Oklahoma. Women must be protected in situations where they may be vulnerable, and inviting biological men into these spaces without the consent of the women present is unsafe, unwise and unjust.
Last interim, we saw the need for a clear distinction of biological sex in legal situations and worked together to file legislation in February to enact the Women's Bill of Rights.
While we are glad to see this policy take effect, we are disappointed the governor did not acknowledge the efforts of the female legislators who authored the policy, spent months rallying support for it, and invested hours before committees and on the chamber floor debating its merits."
The executive order will only be in place as long as Governor Stitt is in office. Within 90 days of the next governor being sworn in, the executive order will no longer apply.
“They do have the same power as law, but they have the ability to expire,” said Rep. Munson.
After the Save Women's Sport Act was signed into law last year, this is the most recent move from Stitt to ensure he’s protecting Oklahoma women.
“We are going to be safeguarding the very essence of what it means to be a woman,” said Stitt.
Freedom Oklahoma responded to the executive order, saying it is neither about rights, nor is it about protecting women,” and calling it “discrimination against transgender women.”
Representative Melissa Provenzano (D-Tulsa) also responded with a statement:
“It’s pretty rich that a man would feel it’s appropriate for him to define what makes me a woman. Even more so, for the government to do it. This bill couldn’t make it across the line and into law during session because it was fraught with conflict and all but guaranteed (yet another) lawsuit filed against the state for overstepping their bounds and inserting ourselves into the rights and private lives of Oklahomans,” Rep. Provenzano said.
“Instead of a symbolic Executive Order, don’t we have better things to do with our time? Like solving the actual problems that have earned us our ranking of the worst in the nation when it comes to women? Things like equal pay, access to preventative health care, the maternal mortality rate, abortion care and the atrociously high rate of domestic violence women are subjected to in Oklahoma, which has led us to have one of the highest homicide rates in the nation for women. This Executive Order is lip service. Let’s move on to something that will actually make an impact,” Rep. Provenzano said.
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