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Oklahoma Governor Orders State to Use Anti-Trans Definition of Gender

Oklahoma Governor Orders State to Use Anti-Trans Definition of Gender

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt

Gov. Kevin Stitt's executive order calls for binary definitions of gender according to that assigned at birth.

Republican Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt has signed an executive order requiring state agencies to use definitions of men and women according to the gender they were assigned at birth.

Stitt is calling it the “Women’s Bill of Rights,” but his opponents are saying it’s yet another attack on transgender and nonbinary people in a state that already has many anti-LGBTQ+ laws.

The order, issued Tuesday, says that in any official state documents, defines “male” and “female” by the design of reproductive systems. The words “man,” “woman,” “boy,” “girl,” “mother,” and “father” should be used only according to those definitions, it says, and “sex” should refer to a person’s “biological sex” as assigned at birth. It mandates that state agencies and public schools use these definitions in gathering vital statistics and requires schools to provide separate restrooms and changing rooms for males and females, according to these understandings of the words.

“I am taking decisive executive action to ensure the true definition of the word woman, meaning a biological woman, is what guides the state as we reaffirm our commitment to ensuring the safety, dignity, and sanctity of women across Oklahoma,” Stitt said in a press release. “As long as I’m governor, we will continue to protect women and ensure women-only spaces are reserved solely for biological women.”

At a press conference, he said, “Today we’re taking a stand against this out-of-control gender ideology that is eroding the very foundation of our society. We are going to be safeguarding the very essence of what it means to be a woman. Oklahomans are fed up with attempts to confuse the word ‘woman’ and turn it into some kind of ambiguous definition that harms real women.”

At the signing ceremony, he was joined by representatives of the Independent Women’s Forum, which opposes trans rights. They included Somerlyn Cothran, an Oklahoma business owner, and Riley Gaines, a former college swimmer who objected to competing against trans woman Lia Thomas.

The order is based on model legislation drafted by Independent Women’s Voice and Independent Women’s Law Center, sister organizations to Independent Women’s Forum, in collaboration with the Women’s Liberation Front, a.k.a. WoLF. Stitt’s press release describes WoLF as “left-leaning,” which it is on some issues, such as abortion rights, but it is anti-trans. It opposes trans women’s access to women’s prisons, shelters, and other spaces, and is against the inclusion of gender identity in civil rights laws.

Kansas has passed a law drawn from the model, with legislators overriding Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s veto in April. Montana and Tennessee have also adopted laws to this effect, signed by those states’ Republican governors. Such legislation was proposed in Oklahoma but failed to pass, hence the executive order.

LGBTQ+ rights supporters denounced Stitt’s move. Nicole McAfee, executive director of Freedom Oklahoma, issued this statement: “Governor Stitt is going to claim he cares about women, while signing policy authored by an organization that has opposed both the Equal Rights Amendment and the Paycheck Fairness Act. This Executive Order is neither about rights, nor is it about protecting women. It is a thinly veiled attack on codifying discrimination against transgender women. This bill does not protect women, but instead opens the door for further civil rights violations that open all women to being harassed and targeted as they have their femininity assessed and judged by a public who feels increased permission to police gender. We know that this Executive Order, like the legislation we saw from this same organization this session, is not rooted in what is best for women or even clarity within the law, rather it is a blatant celebration of transmisogyny from the Governor’s office. Two Spirit, transgender, and gender nonconforming people have always been in Oklahoma. And we’ll always be here. While we won’t pretend to be surprised that the Governor is engaging in yet another blatant attacks on our community, we will continue to act with urgency towards the future where all 2SLGBTQ+ people have the safety to thrive.”

To TV station KOCO, McAfee added, “It seems to open several pathways to harm. It creates very clinical attempts at a definition of what it is to be a woman, and it seems to further sex-based discrimination in our state and in a place where outcomes for women on a whole are on all of the worst lists.”

To name a few examples of the situation of Oklahoma women: The state bans abortion in most cases, even though an Oklahoma Supreme Court decision overturned a requirement that doctors declare a medical emergency before performing one. The state also has one of the worst maternal mortality rates in the nation.

And regarding trans and nonbinary people, Oklahoma already has an anti-trans school restroom law and a trans-exclusionary school sports law. It has passed a ban on gender-affirming care for trans youth, but a suit has been filed against the ban, and the state and the plaintiffs in the suit have agreed it will not be enforced while the suit is pending. The state has banned nonbinary gender markers on birth certificates, and Stitt in 2021 signed an executive order prohibiting any gender changes on these documents.

Others decrying Stitt’s latest order include Oklahoma House Democratic Leader Cyndi Munson, who called it an act of “partisan, polarizing politics,” the Associated Press reports. “Once again, the Republican supermajority continues their government overreach by infringing on the rights of citizens,” she said.

And Oklahoma Rep. Mauree Turner, the first out nonbinary state legislator in the U.S., tweeted that the order is “separate, and unequal.” Turner also noted, “I do wonder if Kevin Stitt ever gets tired of making a mockery, not only of the state, but also himself.”

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