As Pride month marches on this June, Oklahoma still has a significant way to go in protecting and recognizing its LGBTQ+ residents’ rights and wellbeing.
We’ve made strides, to be sure, as a nation, state and city. In Norman, the city’s Human Rights Commission decided recently to recommend that the City Council ban any Norman medical professionals for administering conversion therapy to a minor. Norman already prohibits city funds from supporting any conversion therapy-practicing medical professionals.
Stamping out conversation therapy — a dangerous and irresponsible practice that purports to change a person’s sexuality — is a strong move. Our city is already ranked one of friendlier places in the state for LGBTQ+ people to live.
But the rest of our state is significantly less legally friendly for LGBTQ+ Oklahomans.
Oklahoma never repealed its anti-sodomy laws; the laws were struck down less than 20 years ago by 2003’s Lawrence v. Texas. Oklahoma and 13 other states had to be forced by the Supreme Court to stop enforcing these laws, which some states had repealed a full 30 years before that SCOTUS decision. Nationally, LGBTQ Americans only received the right to marry six years ago.
Still, the legalization of LGBTQ+ relationships and marriage does not mean LGBTQ+ Oklahomans have won all the rights they need.
There is still no state law protecting us from discrimination — whether we’re being denied housing or fired from a job — based on our sexuality or gender. We in Norman are fortunate to live in the only Oklahoma city with an ordinance that prohibits discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodation based on sexuality or gender (though a few other larger municipalities protect against housing discrimination specifically). Not all LGBTQ+ Oklahomans are as fortunate.
Our state, along with several others, has seen a spat of recent anti-transgender legislation, including a law that attempted to bar transgender girls and women from participating in school sports that matched their gender identity.
In a state with so many struggles — from poverty and childhood trauma, to underfunded schools — it’s disappointing to see our lawmakers focused on making life harder for some of us while also neglecting to legally protect us from discrimination.
LGBTQ+ Oklahomans are your neighbors, your friends, your children. We exist here and deserve to thrive. We shouldn’t have to plead the case of our humanity before our elected officials, but each year, we do.
We want to be gainfully employed, have equal access to housing, be able to use the bathroom or walk in public without fear. Can you imagine, in the year 2021, not receiving legal protection from discrimination because of your gender or your partner? This Pride month, I’m asking you to protect us, prioritize us, remember us and love us in action, not just in word.