The Oklahoma Senate is trying to subvert the Federal Hate Crimes Bill (Matthew Shepherd Act) that was passed last year.
OK State Senator, Steve Russell, slipped an amendment into a bill on Wednesday that would prohibit the state of Oklahoma from cooperating with Federal Hate Crimes laws.
MetroStar News, the Oklahoma-based LGBT newspaper, explained:
"This would prohibit providing as evidence to Federal authorities a bloody baseball bat or gun used in that type of crime to assist in their prosecution of that hate crime. Since crimes committed due to a victim's sexual orientation/gender identity are not Hate Crimes under Oklahoma state law, and this restriction would make Federal prosecution of this type of crime in Oklahoma very difficult if not impossible, this would greatly impede Hate Crimes protection for the GLBT community in Oklahoma."
St. Sen Russel justified his hate mongering, "This protects people to do or say whatever they want..."
Phil Reese pointed out at Americqueer:
TO DO OR SAY WHATEVER THEY WANT.
Like "I hate fags, I think I'm going to kill that one over there." And then go do it. Because that's what they want.
There is a VERY VERY special place in Hell for Steve Russell.
There remains some question whether Oklahoma has the authority to pass such a bill. After all, the Union won the Civil War, the Federal Government has a right to pass laws, and the states are expected to follow those laws. However, the Oklahoma legislature has a long history of ignoring this reality.
Laura Belmonte from Oklahoma based The Equality Network (TEN) told Bilerico in an e-mail:
Indeed, the most disgusting thing about this latest affair is that the original Russell bill (SB 2165) supposedly died in the Senate Judiciary Committee. We knew that was too good to be true.
Last night, he used an amendment to gut all of the language of a live bill (SB 1965 .pdf) that would have created a task force to examine Oklahoma Secondary School Activities - and instead inserted all of the text of SB 2165.
The Senate as well as any of the civil rights groups monitoring SB 2165 (the supposedly dead bill) were totally blindsided.
And, get this, the bill is so badly drafted that it inadvertently opts Oklahoma out of the pre-2009 federal hate crimes law (section 245) instead of the LGBT-inclusive federal law enacted last October (section 249).
The Equality Netowrk President, Kathy L. Williams, Ph.D., warned, "Senator Russell's bill is truly terrifying in its implications. This legislation sends the message that violence against LGBT Oklahomans is acceptable. It also sets a chilling precedent that Oklahoma will only enforce certain federal laws and cooperate only with selected federal agencies. We believe this unconstitutional and blatantly discriminatory bill will harm all Oklahomans, regardless of their identity and regardless of whether or not they are victims of hate crimes."
If the house Passes the bill, and Governor Brad Henry signs it, civil rights and equality organizations plan to immediately challenge the law's constitutionality.