Instead of passing a law that (they foolishly believed) would exempt them from LGBT protections under the federal Matthew Shepard Act, Oklahoma’s state senators approved a bill that blocks the state from having to comply with Title 18 U.S. Code Section 245. But the hate crimes portion of the law dealing with sexual orientation and gender identity is in Section 249. Section 245, in fact, deals with racial and religious protections — the very thing lawmakers were trying to “protect” by avoiding the Matthew Shepard Act.
Oklahoma State Senate Minority Leader Andrew Rice, a Democrat, says SB 1965 “in its current form doesn’t take away rights from gays and lesbians. It takes away rights for religion and race.” State Sen. Steve Russell, who created the bill, isn’t commenting.