So far, this year’s legislative session is just as chaotic as previous years. In the face of continued discrimination in our state, we celebrated amazing wins for the rights of many Oklahomans. As these laws become closer to reality, we will continue to track these bills in the Capitol and brace to defend our civil liberties after this session adjourns.
We’ve had some positive wins in 2023 that we are excited to share. SB 429, which allows students to wear tribal regalia during graduation, passed unanimously in the Senate and has advanced to the House! In addition, the Oklahoma Domestic Abuse Survivorship Act unanimously passed the House! This reformative bill allows judges to consider evidence of domestic and sexual violence during sentencing. While the retroactive portion of this bill was recently taken out, we continue to work with coalition members to reinstate this. Lastly, every proposed drag show ban proposal in Oklahoma is no longer active this session. This is a major win for First Amendment rights as our state continues to try to censor 2SLGBTQIA+ Oklahomans.
These are high points worth celebrating. However, we are still facing numerous discriminatory and harmful bills this session:
Criminal Legal System
We are tracking over 21 harmful criminal legal bills in our state. HB 2161 requires that law enforcement officers must make up two-thirds of citizen review boards. These boards are charged with investigating police misconduct and recommend disciplinary action following a complaint. SB 108 creates a three-strike law by escalating multiple possessions for dangerous drugs to a felony. This bill would further increase our state’s already high incarceration rate and would create barriers for Oklahomans to seek recovery services for their substance use struggles. Lastly, HB 2049 would dangerously expand ‘stand your ground’ laws by allowing people to use deadly force on others within their property lines.
At the start of the session, Oklahoma legislators proposed 30+ anti-2SLGBTQIA+ bills, some of the most in the United States. SB 129, arguably the most controversial anti-trans bill, which would have banned all state and local funding for gender affirming care providers in our state, is now dormant. Though, this is a slight relief, the ACLU has already promised legal action if any gender-affirming care bans became effective this year. Additionally, more than 80 local businesses joined us in condemning anti-2SLGBTQIA+ legislation in Oklahoma.
We are still facing two transgender medical bans: HB 2177 and SB 613 would ban evidence-based care for trans youth under 18. In addition, HB 2177 would bar private insurance from covering gender-affirming care, regardless of age. SB 613 would also impose criminal sanctions on anyone providing these services. Lastly, HB 1449 creates separate but equal provisions for transgender Oklahomans, and implies that people who do not fit the State’s definitions of sex as ‘unnatural’.
This session follows the turmoil of Oklahoma becoming the first state to completely ban abortion in our nation. SB 538 would further reimburse anti-abortion centers, also known as crisis pregnancy centers. This bill discourages pregnant people from seeking abortion care and further funds abortion prevention services. Forcing people to carry a pregnancy to term against their best wishes violates their bodily autonomy and medical rights.
Classroom and Library Censorship
Once again, classroom censorship is a major focus at the Capitol this year. Even after we filed against HB 1775 in 2021, legislators continue to advance laws that further ban discussions on race and gender in the classroom. SB 397 would create a library rating system in public and school libraries and requires students to get permission from caretakers to read books that are deemed for ‘juniors and seniors’. This would continue Oklahoma’s streak in trying to enforce book bans in public schools. HB 1397 would allow the State Department of Education and State Superintendent, Ryan Walters, to create a civil rights curriculum focused solely on nonviolent approaches to protesting injustice. This bill is a clear whitewashing of history that excludes the diversity of tactics used during the civil rights movement.
Voting and Elections
SB 518 would require a utility bill or bank statement to register to vote. This creates another barrier for people to exercise their voting rights. Lastly, SB 518 would make it harder for Oklahomans to create state questions by adding more requirements to the initiative petition process. These conditions includes a $750 filing fee and increasing time to approve petitions before going onto the ballot.
Gender affirming-care is still legal everywhere in Oklahoma! Planned Parenthood and Trust Women's clinic in OKC have expanded their care options and still provide services at their clinics. You still have autonomy to receive evidence-based care, regardless of your gender-identity.
Want to keep track of these bills and more? Check out our public bill tracker to stay informed during this legislative session!