OKLAHOMA CITY, OK--The American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma is honoring five lawmakers for the 2013 legislative session. The Oklahoma legislature has a history of being home to true champions of civil liberties. These giants stood guard of the Constitution in a state more often known for its efforts to trample civil liberties than to protect them. The courage of these legislators to do the right thing regardless of the political consequences not only has mitigated some of the worst assaults on our freedom, but on occasion have led the charge for Oklahoma to be more free and more just than it was before their service.

The legacy of political courage continues today. The ACLU of Oklahoma is pleased to recognize five legislators whose commitment to the principles upheld by the Constitution during the 53rd Legislative Session is unparalleled. The award recipients include members of both parties, demonstrating that protecting the rights and freedoms that we hold so dear is not a partisan issue. Join us in celebrating the courage and tenacity of these legislators.



Representative Paul Wesselhoft

The ACLU of Oklahoma Freedom Award is awarded to a member of either the House or Senate who has fought throughout the session to advance the ideals guaranteed by the United States Constitution and defended by the ACLU of Oklahoma. This year’s recipient is Representative Paul Wesselhöft (R-Moore) for his efforts to ensure technologies like drones and cell phones do not demand Oklahomans sacrifice privacy for the sake of convenience. Rep. Wesselhöft authored legislation that would prohibit the government from using drones to spy on Oklahomans without first obtaining a warrant. Rep. Wesselhöft also introduced legislation that would require the government to first obtain a warrant before tracking an individual’s cell phone. The ACLU of Oklahoma is pleased to honor Representative Wesselhöft for his tireless commitment to the privacy rights of Oklahomans.


Representative Doug Cox, M.D.

The ACLU of Oklahoma Justice Award is awarded to a member of the House or Senate whose commitment to justice for all Oklahomans runs far deeper than their commitment to partisan politics. This year’s recipient is Representative Doug Cox, M.D. (R-Grove), for his continued, outspoken support of reproductive rights. Dr. Cox brings his medical expertise and real world experience with patients to his debates in committee and on the House floor. Often breaking ranks with all of his Republican colleagues and a majority of his Democratic colleagues, Dr. Cox is unmoved by calls for partisan unanimity and easily shrugs off short-sighted political groupthink.



Senator Harry Coates

Representative Emily Virgin

This award honors one member of the House and one member of the Senate who through their service go above and beyond in the advocacy of civil liberties. This year, the ACLU of Oklahoma is pleased to present the award to Senator Harry Coates (R-Seminole). Sen. Coates has stood out over the years for his advocacy on behalf of immigrant’s rights, at a time when most of his colleagues were clamouring for harsh and punitive immigration laws. Sen. Coates has also been vocal in his opposition to bills that curb reproductive rights for Oklahoma’s women. This most recent legislative session, Sen. Coates led the fight in the Senate to reduce non-violent, aged and elderly prisoners from our states severely overcrowded prisons.


The ACLU of Oklahoma is pleased to announce that the House recipient is Representative Emily Virgin (D-Norman). Rep. Virgin is a persistent defender of civil liberties, ever on guard for those who would sacrifice Constitutional rights on the altar of political expediency. In her short time in the House, Rep. Virgin has become a formidable presence, bringing her keen legal mind and knowledge of legislative rules to her debates in committees and on the House floor.

The ACLU of Oklahoma is proud to honor Senator Coates and Representative Virgin for their outstanding advocacy on such crucial civil liberties issues.



Representative Jeannie McDaniel

The H.K. Berry Award for Outstanding Service is awarded to one member of either the House or Senate who demonstrate unwavering commitment to civil liberties. This year’s recipient is Representative Jeannie McDaniel (D-Tulsa). Rep. McDaniel is known for being a champion long-distance runner. The skills she honed during her years of running are demonstrated through her public service. Rep. McDaniel is as fearless as she is determined. Despite always having an opponent in a competitive district, Rep. McDaniel never bends her commitment to justice for the sake of political gain. A leader in the fight to protect the reproductive rights for women, Rep. McDaniel is also a strong voice for criminal justice reform. This past legislative session, Rep. McDaniel authored legislation that given non-violent, elderly prisoners who have already served a large portion of their sentence the opportunity to seek early parole. Rep. McDaniel’s determined and consistent support of the rights of all Oklahomans is truly unparalleled. In a state beset with evidence of those who so willingly dismiss the values embedded in our Constitution, Rep. Jeannie McDaniel is a reminder of what public servants are capable of when they are not preoccupied with getting re-elected.


This year’s recipients – the first group of legislators honored by what we hope will become annual awards – are outstanding stewards of our cause and dedicated public servants.  The ACLU of Oklahoma thanks these lawmakers for their courage, their tenacity, and their commitment to the rights of all Oklahomans.