Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Oklahoma Hate-Rrimes Exclusion Bill Killed

In a refreshing move, the proposed bill in the Oklahoma legislature that seeks to exempt Oklahoma from compliance with the federal Matthew Shepard - James Byrd Hate Crimes Act has been killed in the Oklahoma House. While the bill passed the Oklahoma Senate, it is encouraging that some sanity remains in the legislature. Rep. Mike Shelton, D-Oklahoma City, purposely became a sponsor of the bill that originated in the Senate for the express purpose of making sure that the bill did not secure passage. As previously mentioned, the bill also cited the incorrect federal statutory provision and even if passed would have failed to accomplish the goal of its wingnut backers. Here are some highlights from the Tulsa World:
OKLAHOMA CITY — A controversial hate-crimes bill did not get a hearing Monday in a House committee. Rep. Mike Shelton, D-Oklahoma City, became the House author of Senate Bill 1965, by Sen. Steven Russell, R-Oklahoma City. Shelton said he took control of the bill to kill it and asked that the bill not get heard in the House Judiciary Committee. Russell said he had substantially rewritten the bill from its original version.
Russell said the law is needed to protect free speech after the passage of a federal law that added sexual orientation or gender identity to the categories protected under the federal hate-crimes law. President Barack Obama signed the law in October.
Oklahoma’s existing hate-crimes law does not include sexual orientation or gender identity.
Shelton said SB 1965 would have prohibited Oklahoma law enforcement agencies from cooperating with any federal agency in the investigation of a federal hate crime.
But Russell said his bill had been misinterpreted. He said he was concerned that pastors who preached against homosexuality could be prosecuted if someone, as a result, took action against a gay person.
Laura Belmonte, vice president and co-founder of The Equality Network, a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocacy organization, said the group will be monitoring the legislative session to ensure that Russell does not insert the bill’s language into another measure.“This is a bill that really denies Oklahomans equal protection under federal law,” Belmonte said. “It puts law enforcement in the position of breaking federal law, directing them to obstruct access to evidence.

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