In their 2016 legislative preview event, leaders of the Americans United for the Separation of Church and State OKC chapter pinpointed 12 bills that will or threaten to inject sectarian beliefs into public policy during the second half of the 2015-2016 session.
Also provided at the well attended event, held on February 7 at the Northwest Library, was a new site that streamlines bill tracking for Oklahoma citizens concerned about state government. BillScribe.com, created by AU member Clayton Flesher. While some bugs still need to be ironed out, the site and app should be a boon to those lobbying against the “dirty dozen” and other bills, or wanting to support bills they deem worthy of passage into law.
Another site recommended as more user friendly than the bill tracking provided by the Oklahoma legislature itself is Legiscan.com. All the links below lead to the info provided by LegiScan.
- SB440 – Oklahoma Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 2015
- SB723 – Oklahoma Religious Freedom Act
- SB898 – Oklahoma Religious Freedom Act
- SB21 – Religious Viewpoints Anti-discrimination Act
Those five are general sectarian intrusions. Another seven represent only some of the proposed bills that focus on LGBT citizens and denying or repealing their equal rights.
- SB478 – Protection of Religious Freedom in the Sanctity of Marriage Act of 2015
- HB1598 – Parental and Family Rights in Counseling Protection Act
- HB1599 – Preservation of Sovereignty and Marriage Act
- HB1663 – Marriage Act of Oklahoma
- HB1007 – Passed last session; protects, unnecessarily, religious officials from having to recognize same-sex marriages
- HJR1059 – sets up constitutional amendment process “providing protections for entities and individuals that refuse certain acts which violate a sincerely held religious belief”
Some of the proposed bills are identical in wording, or very closely so. It was noted that this is due to the practice of taking proposed legislation directly from outside groups (like ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, an extremely well funded pro-business rightwing advocacy group). Other bills are purposefully left empty as “shell bills” so that content can be added later during the session if needed to circumvent regular filing process and schedules.
The same names kept coming up as far as who is filing/sponsoring these bills. The usual suspects: Rep. Sally Kern, Sen. Josh Brecheen, and Rep. Jeff Coody were especially active in attempting to force their personal religious views on the rest of us. Fortunately, Kern is being term-limited out after this session.
Photos by David Wheelock. Used with permission. More photos from the event.