Okla. Lawmakers Pass Wrong Hate Crimes Bill

By Michelle Garcia

Originally published on Advocate.com March 29 2010 7:45 PM ET

Lawmakers in Oklahoma thought they’d figured out a way to exempt the state from enforcing the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Act, which added protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity to the federal hate crimes act. But thanks to “a legislative error,” the Oklahoma senate has instead passed a bill that sidesteps protections based on race and religion, according to The Oklahoma Daily.

Senate Bill 1965, passed on March 10, states that local enforcement agencies should not enforce any sections of federal law listed under Title 18 U.S. Code Section 245 unless they are already covered by state law. But it’s Section 249, not 245, where sexual orientation and gender identity protections are listed. Section 245 outlines protections based on race and religion.

Now that the mistake has been made public, the bill has little chance of getting through the House, according to Sarah Warbelow, the Human Rights Campaign’s state legislative director. But that’s little solace for Equality Oklahoma president Toby Jenkins.

“People are a little embarrassed that it got this far,” he said.