Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Withering in the Spotlight: Controversial Bills Put Oklahoma in National Headlines, but Most Failed

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Withering in the Spotlight: Controversial Bills Put Oklahoma in National Headlines, but Most Failed

Article excerpt

OKLAHOMA CITY - Some of the bills filed in this year's legislative session caught national attention, from one that would have remove state funding for Advanced Placement U.S. History to a perceived ban on hooded sweatshirts. Several were filed that would have a negative effect on homosexual people.

Freedom Oklahoma Executive Director Troy Stevenson said 18 anti- gay bills were filed - a record for anti-gay legislation filed in one state for a time. Texas legislators later filed a higher number, however, and some measures became law. None of Oklahoma's bills were passed, which Stevenson counted as a victory.

"It really did give people an insight that Oklahoma is changing, or that Oklahoma has never been as bad as considered," he said. "I think there are a lot of people who have never been here who think of Oklahoma as a really ultra-conservative place. There are good people. There were a lot of Republicans and Democrats that saw the mean-spirited nature."

One of the longest-lived bills was House Bill 1125, filed by state Rep. Todd Russ, R-Cordell, and Sen. Anthony Sykes, R-Moore. It would have changed the way legal marriages are recognized in the state; they would either be recognized by a marriage certificate or an affidavit of common law marriage. Marriage certificates could have been issued by a religious official after a formal ceremony to solemnize the marriage or by a judge. If the parties wishing to be married did not hold a formal ceremony, they could have filed an affidavit of common law marriage with the court clerk instead. Therefore, a court clerk would no longer have had to issue a marriage license, but the union would have been legally recognized.

Although same-sex marriage is legal in Oklahoma, Russ said some court clerks were not comfortable with issuing marriage licenses to homosexual couples.

"There are people that are depending on their faith and (issuing a marriage license to a gay couple) goes completely against their moral conscience," Russ said.

The bill made it through the House floor, but not the Senate's rules committee. Russ said he plans to bring it back next year. He said he has had other states' leaders calling and inquiring about the bill, which was completely his idea and wasn't pushed by another entity.

Conversion therapy

State Rep. Sally Kern, R-Oklahoma City introduced House Bill 1598, which would give parents or caretakers the rights to seek conversion therapy for gay children.

When originally submitted, the bill read: "The people of this state have the right to seek and obtain counseling or conversion therapy from a mental health provider in order to control or end any unwanted sexual attraction, and no state agency shall infringe upon that right."

A later version removed the phrase "conversion therapy," but mandated the state couldn't stop a therapist or mental health provider from administering therapy to reduce a patient's same-sex desires. …

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