2018-02-02 ne-lgbtbills p1

The Rev. Lori Walke officiates the wedding of Megan Sibbett and Annemarie Mulkey as they hold their daughter, Olive, at Mayflower Congregational Church, a United Church of Christ congregation, on Monday, October 6, 2014, the first day same-sex marriage was legal in Oklahoma. Walke spoke Thursday at a Freedom Oklahoma press conference at the state Capitol about the anti-LGBT bills that have been filed in the Oklahoma Legislature before the session starts. DAVID McDANIEL/NewsOK.com file

OKLAHOMA CITY — An Oklahoma City minister had a message for some lawmakers on Thursday.

“Stop obsessing over bathrooms and weddings,” said the Rev. Lori Walke, one of the ministers at Mayflower Congregational United Church of Christ.

Walke spoke during a press conference called by Freedom Oklahoma to discuss bills targeting the LGBT community and those that attempt to protect it by providing protections against discrimination.

Lawmakers have filed measures dubbed “right of conscience” bills that would allow religion-based discrimination in services and in adoptions.

In a recent session, a bill that would govern the use of restrooms for students opposed to sharing restrooms and changing facilities with transgender individuals was filed but failed to secure approval.

Walke called the measures unnecessary.

“Most pastors and churches already know that houses of worship and the clergy have long had the constitutionally protected freedom to decide which marriages they will and won’t perform according to the faith tradition,” she said. “This includes marriages of same-sex couples but also interfaith couples and marriages of people previously divorced.”

She said there is no explanation for the measures other than to be mean-spirited.

“Bills that masquerade as religious freedom are shockingly out of step with our community standards,” Walke said.

Troy Stevenson, executive director of Freedom Oklahoma, said another measure would allow religious agencies that receive any state funds to discriminate in the adoption process.

“Now some people might not see this as a problem, except we have got an unprecedented number of children in foster care and can’t find homes,” Stevenson said.

Rep. Jason Dunnington, D-Oklahoma City, said all people should be treated fairly and equally by the laws.

“That is why I, for the fourth session in a row, am asking my colleagues to join us in passing a nondiscrimination law that includes sexual orientation and gender identity,” Dunnington said. “Additionally, this year we are seeking protection for all citizens by expanding the scope of the current hate crimes laws to include sexual orientation and gender identity.”

Stevenson said fewer anti-LGBT measures were filed this year as compared to prior years.

He believes some measures that would provide additional protection for LGBT people have a good shot at passing.

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Barbara Hoberock

405-528-2465

barbara.hoberock@tulsaworld.com

Twitter: @bhoberock

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