State Rep. Mike Reynolds’ legislative proposal that could prevent gay people from serving in the Oklahoma National Guard and state Rep. Sally Kern’s obsession with supposedly protecting Oklahomans from Sharia Law when they go to court are really just bigoted, freaky sideshows to the main GOP play this year: Cutting taxes for rich people and cutting state government.
Progressives, of course, should always raise their voices against intolerance and hate, but both Reynolds’ and Kern’s legislative proposals are unlikely to get much traction this year and would obviously face court battles if passed. The two Republican Oklahoma City legislators might want to motivate the GOP base by assuring it discrimination against gay people and Muslims still remains a priority for the party this election year, but, at this juncture, it seems the general, faux anti-Obama hysteria—some of which is also based on bigotry—will be more than enough to assure a large voter turnout.
Media reports this week outlined Reynolds’ proposal to bring back the now repealed Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) military policy to the Oklahoma National Guard. Under the bill, according to human rights organizations, officials could actually ask military members about their sexual orientation, which, in effect, would mean the gay community would be barred from serving.
The federal government, of course, has repealed DADT and gay people can now serve openly in the military, but some national GOP politicians have vowed to reinstate the archaic policy just after what they foresee as a pending GOP sweep in the 2012 elections. Even if the Republicans do win the White House, it still would remain uncertain whether they would risk alienating the growing number of voters who now favor gay rights. Younger voters, in particular, are more tolerant.
Reynolds was quoted as saying some Oklahoma National Guard members had asked for a reprise of DADT, a claim not backed up by specific numbers or clear, convincing evidence. That some Oklahoma National Guard members are opposed to gay rights is probably a given, but that doesn’t mean there’s a groundswell of support for Reynolds’ bill, which is simply political code.
Bashing gay people is a tradition among GOP Oklahoma politicians from Reynolds to Kern to U.S. Sens. Jim Inhofe and Tom Coburn, but it hasn’t stopped a growing acceptance of gay rights and new government policies forbidding discrimination. Oklahoma City, for example, just passed a new rule that prevents the city from discriminating against its employees because of sexual orientation.
Meanwhile, when a federal court recently ruled that an unnecessary Oklahoma constitutional amendment stopping judges from using Sharia Law, based on Islam, from deciding cases could be ruled unconstitutional in the future, Kern suggested a way to sidestep the ruling. The Oklahoma City legislator said the legislature should pass a bill she proposed last year that would prohibit courts from using any type of foreign laws to decide court cases. This way, so goes her logic, it doesn’t target just one religion.
Of course, the creation of the proposed amendment and the overwhelming vote in favor of it was a collective exercise in xenophobia, bigotry and religious intolerance, and that’s why the courts have granted injunctions against it. Obviously, there has never been a case in an official Oklahoma court in which a judge announced she/he was not going to rely on the U.S. Constitution to rule on a case but, instead, use Sharia Law. The amendment was designed as a way to simply incite more hatred against Islam.
Kern’s idea to get around the recent ruling is just an example of more hatred and intolerance. Is she really that concerned with this issue? Does she really believe judges are going to start using Sharia Law in Oklahoma courts? Even with a growing economy, the state faces serious problems and issues. How in the world is Sharia Law a pressing political issue in Oklahoma?
As Reynolds and Kern predictably draw attention with their proposals, the GOP leadership, under the ruse of a “task force, is recommending a drop in the top income tax rate from 5.25 to 4.75 percent and a drop in the corporate tax rate from 6 to 5 percent. Many Republicans say they want to eventually eliminate the income tax.
The Oklahoma Policy Institute continues to outline how the cut will primarily benefit the wealthiest Oklahomans and possibly lead to more budget cuts for state agencies.
I imagine a scene in this year’s legislative theater in which the standard 200 to 300 progressive protesters rally at the State Capitol to oppose the latest bizarre GOP legislation de jour while rich Oklahomans and members of the corporate power structure look on, chuckle and even encourage the strife among the rabble. Again, the real GOP play this year is about taxes and the main actors belong to the Oklahoma oligarchy, which continues to manipulate government for its own financial gain at the expense of everyone else.