Controversial bill passes State Senate
The Oklahoma State Senate passed a bill Thursday that would limit what authorities can do when prosecuting hate crimes.
The bill would prohibit local and state law enforcement agencies from sharing information about hate crimes with federal authorities if the state of Oklahoma did not recognize the crime as a hate crime by its own statutes.
The Oklahoma Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender community condemned the bill’s passage.
The bill would leave LGBT Oklahomans with no legal recourse if they are victims of hate crimes, Laura Belmonte, vice president of The Equality Network, said in a press release.
“Not only does the state hate crimes law exclude sexual orientation or gender identity, but SB 1965 also prevents law enforcement officials from asking for federal assistance in enforcing the LGBT-inclusive federal hate crimes law,” Belmonte said.
Belmonte said the bill does not seek to repeal federal or state hate crimes protections accorded on the basis of race, national origin, religion or disability. Instead, it intentionally excludes only hate crimes perpetrated on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity, two categories added to federal hate crimes law by the U.S. Congress in October.
According to the Senate’s bill-tracking Web site, Russell’s original bill, Senate Bill 2156, died in the Senate Judiciary Committee, but Russell’s bill was revived as Senate Bill 1965 after it was stripped of its title and contents and the original language was replaced with the language of the then-dead bill, Senate Bill 2156.
According to the State Senate’s bill-tracking Web site, the original SB 1965 was a bill to provide oversight to the Oklahoma Secondary Schools Activities Association, but the Senate Committee on Education replaced the original language with Russell’s bill.
The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 39-6 and now moves on to the Oklahoma House of Representatives.