The Kern Obsession

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One of Sally Kern’s latest legal attacks on the state’s LBGT community would ensure parents here of the right to force their children to undergo the barbaric practice of gay-conversion therapy.

If state Rep. Kern’s House Bill 1598 is signed into law, Oklahoma would have state-supported child abuse codified into its statutes, another embarrassment to the state and the result of a Republican-dominated government.

Kern, 68, a Republican who represents a district that includes areas in Oklahoma City and Bethany, has spent much of her lawmaking career—she has been voted into office since 2005 and will be term limited in 2016—obsessed with finding ways to deny equality to and denigrating the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered community (LGBT) in the state. Her 2008 infamous comment arguing that homosexuality is “the biggest threat our nation has, even more so than terrorism or Islam . . .” not only made her and the state open to widespread ridicule but also indicated the loopy depths of her narrowly focused agenda.

The country’s medical establishment has universally condemned gay conversion therapy, which is the process of trying to turn a gay person into a straight person. The American Psychiatric Association and the American Psychological Association, for example, oppose it. Many people in the medical, scientific and LGBT community agree such programs can be harmful to minor children and lead to suicide or longtime mental health issues.

Conversion therapy is based on two major fallacies: (1) That there’s something wrong with a person if they feel same-sex physical and romantic attraction, and (2) that it’s possible to simply “convert” a person into becoming heterosexual through methods like forced vomiting and electric shock to the genitals.

Conversion therapy is banned in California, New Jersey and Washington, D.C. Legislation to ban it is under consideration right now in Iowa and Colorado.

Kern’s bill, which was recently passed by a 5-3 vote in the House Committee on Children, Youth and Family Services, is also basically senseless because there is no ban on conversion therapy here. Her bill, which should obviously not advance in the legislature, is simply a mean-spirited political and religious attack that would actually change nothing here but would do even more massive damage to the state’s image.


Let The Crazy Begin

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State Rep. Sally Kern, the infamous, nationally-known legislator who claims homosexuality is more dangerous than terrorism, has introduced a bill that would allow students to brandish “a pastry or other food which is partially consumed in such a way that the remnant resembles a weapon.”

No, the above paragraph is not from The Onion. The quoted language is actually in the bill.

The bill, if passed and signed into law, would also allow students to bring toy guns to school, simulate gunplay with their fingers, imitate gun sounds and wear clothing supporting gun rights. It would also allow students to draw or possess images of guns and other weapons or use “a pencil, pen or other writing utensil to simulate a weapon.”

Bang bang, shoot em up, kids. You’re so incredibly adorable when you fake like you’re killing someone. The Lost Ogle has an lively take on the issue.

House Bill 2351, introduced for the upcoming legislative session, has drawn a lot of media attention, of course, because it's just so weird and unneeded and shows just how senseless and useless some elements of the Republican-led legislature have become.

The bill could also have unintended consequences by blurring the lines between hostile, potentially violent students and Kern’s fanatical support for guns, which is shared by many of her Republican colleagues. What if an 18-year-old high school student, for example, forms their hand into a gun and points it menacingly at a teacher? Should that not have a consequence?

Kern, an Oklahoma City Republican, pictured right, has dubbed her bill the Common Sense Zero Tolerance Act, saying it was prompted by a case in Maryland in which a 7-year-old student was suspended from school for two days for chewing a Pop Tart into a gun shape. In response to the suspension, the National Rifle Association awarded the boy a lifetime membership and the gun fanatics in that state made a big deal about it.

Was the suspension a mistake? Who knows? I do know that it really isn’t a local issue and that a plethora of school shootings in recent years have made teachers and administrators justifiably paranoid in adopting no-tolerance rules about guns and their facsimiles.

Kern’s bill is a huge overreach and presupposes a problem that doesn’t exist here. It also, in theory, promotes child “gun play” at schools by codifying such activities into law. Why not also introduce a bill that allows students to play kickball during a recess or draw dinosaurs or play math games in classrooms?

This is a bill that needs to be withdrawn or die in the committee process. If it makes it to a full House vote, however, it will probably pass. I’m unsure how the state Senate or Gov. Mary Fallin might respond to it.

Republican leaders, including Fallin, should put pressure on Kern and other fanatical elements of the legislature to put a lid on their ideological nonsense for this upcoming session. The state faces numerous problems, including catastrophic underfunding for education. Making sure school kids can kill people—all in jest and great fun, of course—is as ridiculous as it gets.


Spontaneous Political Combustion? Will Extremism Ignite State GOP Demise?

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I find it unusually discouraging that Oklahoma City-area state Rep. Sally Kern, the nationally known gay-hate activist, has found solace in the Oklahoma House from her GOP colleagues for a paranoid, conspiratorial bill that attacks the United Nations and the world community.

I know the GOP owns state government right now, but why does it waste its time with the nonsense of Kern and other extremist Republicans who push crazy, needless legislation year after year? By supporting such legislation—I’ve written about the “crazy” issue here and here and here and elsewhere many times—conservatives actually miss opportunities to enhance the integrity and power of their political party.

Oklahoma conservatives who might reasonably push for reasonable change—despite progressive and overall Democratic opposition—lose credibility when they don’t speak out against the craziness. The GOP has a clear majority and voter mandate in Oklahoma, and it’s wasting it on extremism and just plain weirdness.

It also appears now the GOP can’t even get a small tax cut through the legislature this session—an effort I adamantly oppose because of recent budget cuts—or have a serious discussion about taxes in general, but, well, it can sure take time to reward the extremist Kern with a lopsided vote in her favor.

In a way, that’s good news for the state’s Democrats because eventually the conservative extremism will fall in on itself and the GOP here seems intent on making that happen sooner rather than later, but it’s a painful, ugly and embarrassing process. I’ve written about Oklahoma politics since 1982, and I’ve seen a lot through the years from both Republicans and Democrats, but I’ve never seen the sheer volume of needless, extremist bills this session has produced.

Kern’s latest measure, House Bill 1412, would prohibit Oklahoma government agencies from adopting any policies that “restrict property rights” that might be traced to Agenda 21, a 1992, non-binding United Nations initiative dealing with sustainability and poverty. Note that it’s “non-binding,” and note, too, that obviously it has absolutely nothing to do with property in Oklahoma.

Former Presidents George H.W. Bush, a Republican, Bill Clinton, a Democrat and George W. Bush, a Republican, all endorsed it at some level. The initiative is so innocuous and comes with absolutely no power of enforcement in any country at any time, and it’s so old, that it’s incredibly bizarre that conservative extremists in the national GOP and the right-wing media are getting traction on this hyperbolic stunt.

This initiative addresses subjects like promoting walking through the building of sidewalks and safe water supplies, hardly the usual political fare of right-wingers here in Oklahoma. But it’s been jazzed up into some conspiracy about the United Nations. It’s mindless and bizarre.

Unfortunately, the bill passed by a 67-17 vote in the House last week and might be considered by the Senate. Some in the right-wing here might see the Agenda-21 hysteria as a way to scare people into voting for Republicans or for ultra-conservative Democrats. In the end, the bill probably means nothing more than that, but it could have harmful, unintended consequences. Agenda 21 is so broad that many basic infrastructure issues could be conceivably tied to it. Both Oklahoma City and Tulsa leaders, in particular, should be concerned that the right-wing in the future could use the bill as an ideological bludgeon.

Kern once equated gay people with terrorists and denigrated women and minorities, and she has been a source of embarrassment for the state’s image, but she’s still getting support for her extremism by GOP leaders. For me, this proves some of these leaders, despite the perfunctory lip service, simply don’t care about the state.

So much needs to be improved in this state, and this is what Oklahomans get. It’s such a waste of time. It’s sad, tragic, and I wonder how much this dominant Republican era, which will pass into oblivion one day, will set the state back for the long-term in terms of things that really matter, such as education, infrastructure, economic development and health concerns.