In wake of Owasso death, senator refers to LGBT community as ‘Filth in Oklahoma’

Sen. Tom Woods’ office is room 529.2 in the Oklahoma Capitol. Woods said the LGBT community was “filth.” (OFFICIAL/PROVIDED)

     State Senator Tom Woods, R-Westville, of District 4 is making national headlines for comments about the LGBTQ community. 

    “We are a Republican state – supermajority – in the House and Senate. I represent a constituency that doesn’t want that filth in Oklahoma,” Woods said at an event in Tahlequah after commenting on the death of 16-year-old nonbinary Owasso student Nex Benedict. Woods co-authored SB129, which has not progressed past introduction, in March 2023. SB129 would prohibit the use of public funds for gender transition. 

     State Representative Mark Vancuren, who represents Owasso, voted in 2023 to pass SB613, which banned gender affirming healthcare for minors. Vancuren did not respond to a request for comment. 

Rep. Mark Vancuren’s office is room 243 in the Oklahoma Capitol. Vancuren voted against gender-affirming care. (OFFICIAL/PROVIDED)

Oklahoma has the highest number of anti-LGBTQ bills currently introduced or advancing in legislation at 54, according to the ACLU. The vast majority of these bills are focused on healthcare and schools. 

Movement Advancement Project, a nonprofit organization out of Colorado that gathers data regarding anti-LGBTQ legislation, ranks Oklahoma as the fifth worst state for LGBTQ protections or legislation. 

Oklahoma hate crime legislation includes protections for “race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin or disability.” Gender identity, sexual identity, and sexual orientation are not protected identities under Oklahoma law. 

Gov. Kevin Stitt has signed legislation targeting transgender rights as well as the nation’s strictest abortion ban. (SUE OGROCKI/ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Gov. Kevin Stitt signed Executive Order 2023-20 Aug. 1, 2023. EO 2023-20 declares official definitions of female, male, woman, girl, man, boy, and sex. EO 2023-20 defines sex as one’s biological sex at birth, thus prohibiting the use of non-binary gender markers on drivers licenses, as well as prohibiting an individual from changing the sex marker on their drivers license. 

Conversion therapy, a discredited practice of “converting” LGBTQ people to cisgender and heterosexual, is banned in 22 states and Washington, D.C., but is not banned in the state of Oklahoma. One city, Norman, partially banned conversion therapy for minors through a city ordinance in 2021.

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