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Oklahoma Antigay Bill Stalls

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A bill before the Oklahoma legislature seeking to exempt the state from the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act has been blocked.

The bill, authored by state senator Steve Russell, previously passed the state senate with a 39-6 vote. Oklahoma does not include sexual orientation in its hate-crimes law.

Rep. Mike Shelton, a member of the state legislature's black caucus, signed on as a sponsor of the house version of the bill with the intent of thwarting the legislation by not requesting a committee hearing.

Still, Russell told the Tulsa World, "In my view, this is not the end of it. We need protections in state law." Russell said he was concerned ministers would be prosecuted for preaching against homosexuality, adding that he believes speech needs to be protected unless it is directly related to a crime.

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