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Republican Lawmakers Attack LGBT Community

Image of Oklahoma state Capitol and a church

There’s no way else to view the recently proposed anti-gay legislation in Oklahoma than as the last gasp of desperate anachronistic lawmakers who want to force citizens to accept their closed-minded, limited worldview.

That doesn’t mean we all shouldn’t push back in full throttle against the specific archaic legislation, but the march for LGBT equality is only increasing in numbers and strength.

Same-sex marriage is now legal in 36 states, including Oklahoma, and the District of Columbia. The U.S. Supreme Court seems poised to rule in the near future that states cannot ban same-sex marriage. Even if it doesn’t, it’s extremely unlikely the court will overturn same-sex marriage in those states that now allow it. Such a ruling would be a logistical and inhumane nightmare that would be widely viewed as a huge human rights violation.

LGBT stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered. People who identify within this community of people deserve full equality under the law here in Oklahoma and elsewhere, and that includes the right to marry someone of their own gender and to identify with any gender without discrimination.

The anti-gay legislation filed so far includes the following bills:

County clerks would no longer issue marriage licenses under House Bill 1125, sponsored by Republican Todd Russ of Cordell. Russ says the bill’s intent is to prevent county clerks from issuing licenses to same-sex couples.

State Rep. Sally Kern, an Oklahoma City Republican who is infamous around the world for her hateful remarks about gay people, has introduced three anti-gay measures. House Bill 1599 would prohibit the expenditure of any government money to support same-sex marriage. House Bill 1598 would allow parents to force their gay children to undergo sexual-orientation conversion therapy without any government interference. House Bill 1572 would allow businesses to refuse service to anyone in the LGBT community.

Under Senate Bill 440, sponsored by Republican state Sen. Joseph Silk of Broken Bow, religious institutions could deny employment or wedding services to anyone if it went against the institution’s particular religious beliefs.

House Bill 1007, sponsored by Republican David Brumbaugh of Broken Arrow, would allow religious organizations the right to refuse to officiate at same-sex marriages.

Sadly, I might have missed more bills trying to limit the rights of the LGBT community here.

Here are short rebuttals to the legislation, which can be found by a bill number search on the Oklahoma State Legislature site:

Kern’s and Russ’s bills are unabashedly unconstitutional, and the state will end up spending thousands upon thousands of taxpayers’ dollars in a losing effort to defend the legislation if it passes. County clerks have to follow the law. Any government money spent on marriage, in particular, would have to include same-sex couples under the law. Same-sex marriage is LEGAL in Oklahoma. Child abuse is against the law, and sexual-orientation conversion therapies are widely regarded as abusive. The state has a fundamental duty to prevent child abuse. A business can’t refuse service to people just because they identify with a certain group or sexual orientation. That takes us back to the Jim Crow era.

All the bills relating to religious organizations are simply superfluous. Churches can already require their members follow specific guidelines for membership unless it’s a clear violation of a federal, state or local criminal law. For example, a minister could refuse to marry a different-gender couple until they went through approved marriage counseling. They could require marrying couples to state certain beliefs or swear certain oaths.

All this legislation is just hateful backlash among angry people against the growing acceptance of the LGBT community and same-sex marriage in this country and, YES, that does include Oklahoma. The bills are either meaningless or will not pass constitutional muster. The religious fundamentalists here are simply kicking and screaming as the state moves forward in the twenty-first century.

Now Replaying The 1980s

Image of oil gusher

There are two things making the fracking bust here in Oklahoma difficult to comprehend and analyze.

First, the world oil glut caused by the hydraulic fracturing boom in Oklahoma and other states was based on poor planning and greed and was entirely predictable.

Second, the local energy news reporting about the situation continues to be shallow if not simply propaganda, making it difficult to determine what major reductions lie ahead in terms of layoffs and overall reductions in government revenues, which affects everyone.

Let’s deal with the first issue. It’s a case of simply supply and demand economics, a concept fairly neutral in terms of political affiliation. When there’s an over supply of anything for sale, either more demand must be created or the prices will drop. In the case of oil, which gets refined into gasoline, this country has made great and needed strides in recent years to reduce demand by producing cars that use less gasoline. In the case of natural gas, some of which fuels power plants and warms our houses and buildings, the country has reduced demand through solar and wind power.

These basic facts don’t take a Harvard MBA to decipher. What has happened is that local big oil and gas companies have continued to deploy hydraulic fracturing or fracking to extract as much oil and gas from the ground here in Oklahoma despite clear warning signs the boom would go bust. These companies did this to make as much money as possible when oil prices were soaring artificially above $100 a barrel, knowing full well prices would eventually drop and production would slow. Right now, oil is below $50 a barrel. Companies need fracked-extracted oil to be at around $80 a barrel to break even.

Meanwhile, local oil and gas companies with this full knowledge agitated for and won gross production tax cuts supported by Gov. Mary Fallin and the Republican-dominated legislature. What’s even worse, thousands of workers are facing possible layoffs here and elsewhere, which leaves even less money for the economy and government operations. Education funding in Oklahoma, for example, which is already one of the lowest in the nation, will probably see even more cuts. How low can we go? We’re going to find out.

A sensible over-arching national and Oklahoma energy policy, one that protects the interests of citizens while allowing profits for oil and gas companies, is probably not possible in today's political climate, especially here. But as we get ready to relive the bleak 1980s here in this Oklahoma, let’s not forget this was preventable, and it was caused by conservatives inside and outside of government. It’s a teachable moment, of course, but I’m afraid no one will learn a thing.

Reconsidering the 1980s in Oklahoma, a bleak economic time that I lived through as an adult, brings me to my next point about the local media. According to local energy writers here, the story goes like this: Yes, oil and gas companies will face a slump, but it will be nothing like the 1980s because the state’s economy is so diversified. Also oil prices will rise soon enough. Okay, in their defense, these local journalists are quoting the same old type of local “experts” saying the old predictable things they said in the 1980s, but given the ramifications and lessons learned one might expect some more enterprise and more piercing questions.

How is the economy more diversified here? I don’t believe there’s been such a big shift. What about the fact that the ensuing layoffs from a major oil bust affects all sectors of the economy? Sure, auto dealers might sell more cars and trucking companies might benefit from lower gas prices, but that hardly compensates for a major oil bust. For example, a small business—let’s say it’s an upscale restaurant—might have to close because it now doesn’t have enough customers. That means more unemployed people who won’t be buying new cars or ordering the consumer goods trucked right to their front doors.

The local energy writers don’t often consider in their calculations that an oil bust also can lead to a banking bust because banks leverage themselves during a boom because of the same greed motivating oil and gas companies. This is what happened to Penn Square Bank in Oklahoma City. It was closed in 1982 and led to the collapse of the larger Continental Illinois National Bank and Trust Company in 1984.

If oil prices remain low, and there’s no reason to suspect otherwise unless—and here’s the basic trick played on us all, folks—there’s a sudden major war or violent conflict truly destabilizing oil-producing countries in the Middle East, then expect bank failures and/or nationally affiliated bank failures in Oklahoma and across the country. That means even more unemployed people.

I don’t want to exaggerate how bad the economy was here in parts of the 1980s in Oklahoma because of the oil bust, but there wasn’t a lot of economic opportunity and there were a lot of empty buildings and the layoff announcements came in droves. The boom created a lot of new development that then went under during the bust. The malaise was palpable.

Could Bricktown and other Oklahoma City downtown hot spots cool off economically in the recent bust if it’s an extended one, which then has a domino effect on other businesses? What about Oklahoma City Thunder ticket sales, especially the expensive seats? What about all those new apartment complexes in downtown Oklahoma City? Who’s going to live in them?

I say get ready for the worst. If it doesn’t happen, then great. But I’m no way convinced that we’re not heading for a 1980s-style crash if not something worse.

The Truth Goes Marching On

Image of Martin Luther King, Jr. San Francisco June 30 1964

(I have a dream that our country will soon bring an end to institutional racism, racial profiling, police brutality, poverty and senseless wars. I have a dream that our country will, free at last, embrace equality and dignity for all people.)

The annual Oklahoma City parade honoring and celebrating the life of the great civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. will begin at 2 p.m. today near St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral at N.W. 7th Street and Broadway Avenue.

A program and a silent march in King’s honor starts at 9 a.m. at the Freedom Center, 2500 N. Martin Luther King Avenue, followed by other activities.

The Rev. King, of course, was a tireless and non-violent advocate for equality in his career until his assassination in 1968. A portion of his many accomplishments was recently featured in the movie Selma, which has been nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture.

Below is an excerpt from King’s famous “I Have A Dream” speech given in 1963 in front the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. The speech is considered one of the greatest pieces of oratory in recorded history.

I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

King’s legacy lives on, and the spirit of his work—the fight for equality and social justice—is needed just as much now as it was in the 1960s here in Oklahoma City and elsewhere.

I have a dream that our country will soon bring an end to institutional racism, racial profiling, police brutality, poverty and senseless wars. I have a dream that our country will, free at last, embrace equality and dignity for all people.

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