Press Room

February 17, 2012

Category: State Advocacy, Oklahoma

Oklahoma Bill Aims to Reinstitute Homophobia and Discrimination in State National Guard

Anti-Gay Legislation Jeopardizes Federal Funding for Oklahoma National Guard

02/17/2012

Washington – The Human Rights Campaign, The Equality Network, and the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma are condemning discriminatory legislation in the Oklahoma House of Representatives. HB 2195, sponsored by Rep. Mike Reynolds (R-Oklahoma City) would implement an even more extreme version of the now-repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” anti-gay policy on the state’s National Guard and jeopardize nearly $295 million in federal funding. The bill is scheduled for a vote before the House Veterans and Military Affairs Committee this Monday.

“This archaic legislation is aimed at sending an outdated and hateful political message, no matter what the damage done to the men and women of the Oklahoma National Guard,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese. “It takes bravery and a love of country to join the National Guard. Oklahoma’s lawmakers should not be sending a message that those who are LGBT are second-class citizens incapable of carrying out their duties just as well as their comrades – but that’s exactly what this homophobic legislation does.”

“Rep. Reynolds’ hateful bill not only puts our State National Guard at risk, but it sends a message that it’s acceptable to discriminate against LGBT Oklahomans,” said The Equality Network (TEN) chair Laura Belmonte. “At a time when our state needs action on job creation, education, and public health, our lawmakers are instead focusing on hateful policies that harm residents of their state. This is totally out-of-step with the momentum we’re seeing on equality nationwide.”

“This proposed legislation is an egregious insult to LGBT soldiers who are serving Oklahoma’s National Guard, and doesn’t reflect how the military at the national level has interpreted federal law,” said ACLU-OK Executive Director Ryan Kiesel. “In addition to discriminating against LGBT people, the legislation stands to jeopardize critical federal funding for the state, to the tune of nearly $295 million.”

If the bill were to become law, Oklahoma would join countries like China, Iran, Syria, North Korea and Pakistan in prohibiting gays and lesbians from serving their country.

The bill also is dramatically out-of-touch with the values of the American public – who overwhelmingly favored open service and the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

Open service also is supported by our nation’s military leadership, including the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Secretary of Defense. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen said the day after implementation of repeal: “…with implementation of the new law fully in place, we are a stronger joint force, a more tolerant joint force, a force of more character and more honor, more in keeping with our own values." Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said: "Thanks to this change, I believe we move closer to achieving the goal at the foundation of the values that America is all about: equality, equal opportunity and dignity for all Americans.”

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.

The Equality Network is a statewide advocacy organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender political and legal rights in Oklahoma.  The Equality Network is a proud member of the Equality Federation.

The ACLU of Oklahoma is an affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union, a national not-for-profit, non-partisan, voluntary organization founded in 1920. Its purpose is to protect those rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights such as freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, freedom to petition the government for a redress of grievances, freedom of association, the right to privacy, the right to due process of law and the right to equal protection under the law.

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