Oklahoma Legislature Rivaling Texas Conservative Laws in Culture War | Dallas Observer


Oklahoma Rivals Texas in Uber-Conservative Legislation

Our neighbors to the north are marching in lockstep with Texas Republicans in the culture wars.
Our neighbors to the north are marching in lockstep with Texas Republicans in the culture wars. Photo by Gerson Repreza on Unsplash
Despite the continued push to turn Texas blue — or at least a little more purple — the state can still be counted on to pass deep-red laws. From deleting controversial books from school library shelves to banning so-called critical race theory, the Lone Star State has led the way in the country's culture wars.

But Texas has some serious competition thanks to its neighbor to the north. That’s right, y’all: Oklahoma is gunning for our hard-right bona fides.

Oklahoma GOP politicians have kept pace with Texas when it comes to proposing and passing conservative legislation. Similar to Texas, Oklahoma lawmakers are fighting against what they see as a liberal agenda engulfing the nation's public schools.

It could even be argued that these anti-“woke” crusaders may be starting to eclipse the state that produced former governor turned U.S. President George W. Bush. Since Oklahoma seems dead set on rivaling Texas’ GOP credentials, here’s a non-comprehensive breakdown of some of its recent conservative goings-on.

Drag Queen Story Time

Texas is far from the only state rapidly sashaying away from drag queens. Oklahoma state Sen. Shane Jett wants to kick the book-readin’ queens to the curb.

Jett’s Senate Bill 937 would prohibit schools from having policies that “respect or promote ‘self-asserted sex-based identity narratives,’” The Oklahoman reported in late January. It’d also bar “drag queen story time” from taking place in schools.

Hitting Kids with Disabilities

Texas’ track record of treatment of students with disabilities isn’t exactly stellar. In fact, parents of Texans with disabilities are advocating for laws aimed at safeguarding their children from certain physical restraints, which can reportedly be violent and “abusive.”

Enter Oklahoma.

Earlier this month, Newsweek reported on a failed bill in the Oklahoma Legislature that would have outlawed the corporal punishment of students with disabilities. Republican state Rep. John Talley had introduced the measure.

Newsweek's article — which featured the eye-grabbing headline “Oklahoma Republicans Vote to Let Teachers Hit Kids With Disabilities” — noted that although that state's education department prohibits such student punishment, the state itself doesn’t have a law that does the same.

Fearing Furries

Jett was also behind a bill that would apparently let parents pull their kids out of schools with furries, according to the online furry magazine Flayrah. (Furries are people who like dressing up in fuzzy anthropomorphic animal suits.)

Flayrah reported that under the proposed Oklahoma law, a school district “could be deemed as problematic” if “furry activities” have been tolerated or advocated for. Woof.

Owning the Libs

Speaking of furries, Oklahoma’s superintendent of public instruction has spoken out against the anthropomorphic lifestyle. Education czar Ryan Walters previously made news for regurgitating false allegations that students had been “identifying as cats” and demanding litter boxes, according to HuffPost.

Walters was also the recipient of pushback over a recent tweet that included an image of two girls, both of whom appeared to be people of color, staring at a white girl while she washed her hands in the bathroom. The black-and-white picture displayed red text that read: “Student Safety Over Liberal Agenda.”

“I will always fight for students,” Walters added in a caption. C’mon, Walters: A full-grown man versus two young girls hardly seems like a fair fight.

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Sex Ed

Advocates insist that Texas has work to do when it comes to sex ed, but hey, at least we have it. House Bill 1780 by Oklahoma state Rep. Danny Williams would ban such curriculum from that state’s public schools altogether, according to The Oklahoman.

Pronouns and ‘Don’t Say Gay’

Pronouns that conflict with Oklahoma students’ birth certificates wouldn’t be allowed in the classroom under Republican state Sen. Cody Rogers’ SB 30. If students want to go by a different name or set of pronouns, they’d reportedly have to provide their parents’ written permission.

Oklahoma state Rep. Terry O’Donnell has also crafted a “nearly identical” measure to Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law. But, according to NPR affiliate KGOU, it would go even further.

O’Donnell’s proposal would bar any lesson from mentioning gender identity and sexual orientation from pre-K through fifth grade. Florida’s bill, meanwhile, does this only for kindergarten through third grade.

“I guess it's kind of crazy these days we have to run a bill in the state House of Representatives, maybe in the Senate, that says we're not going to teach sexual orientation or gender identity to 3-year-old kids,” O’Donnell told KGOU in part. “But that's the world, I guess, that we live in today.”
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Simone Carter is a staff news reporter at the Dallas Observer who graduated from the University of North Texas' Mayborn School of Journalism. Her favorite color is red, but she digs Miles Davis' Kind of Blue.
Contact: Simone Carter

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