Jeff Hickman (copy)

Hickman


OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma Republican lawmakers are calling for the impeachment of the president and other federal officials and for students to be able to claim that their religious beliefs allow them to be exempted from using restrooms where transgender individuals are allowed.

They filed two measures late Thursday in response to last week’s federal directive that schools must allow transgender students to use the restrooms that correspond with their gender identity.

Compliance with Title IX, which prohibits sex discrimination in educational programs and activities, was cited along with other civil rights and discrimination court rulings as the rationale for the federal policy.

Oklahoma Senate Bill 1619 would allow a student to request a shower, athletic changing room or restroom exclusively for that person’s gender. The request would have to be based on “the student’s sincerely held religious beliefs.”

Senate Pro Tem Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa, and House Speaker Jeff Hickman, R-Fairview, are the bill’s authors.

Also late Thursday, state lawmakers filed Senate Concurrent Resolution 43 asking Oklahoma’s U.S. House delegation to “file articles of impeachment against the President of the United States, the Attorney General of the United States, the Secretary of Education and any other federal official liable to impeachment who has exceeded his or her constitutional authority.”

U.S. Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch and U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. released the directive on May 13 “to help provide educators the information they need to ensure that all students, including transgender students, can attend school in an environment free from discrimination based on sex,” the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education said in a joint statement last week.

Oklahoma’s SCR 43 calls for articles of impeachment to be “based upon the grounds that the Constitution of the United States does not grant the executive branch of the federal government any authority whatsoever over the public education system, nor over the use of restrooms or other facilities thereof.”

Sen. Anthony Sykes, R-Moore, and Rep. John Bennett, R-Sallisaw, are the authors of that measure.

“Oklahomans are simply not going to stand for this utter nonsense,” Bennett said in a news release regarding the directive. “Our phones and emails are being flooded by citizens who are enraged by this President’s attempt to use our children as pawns in a liberal agenda.

“This directive is Biblically wrong, a violation of our state’s sovereignty and it is a serious public safety issue.”

In addition, lawmakers will do everything they can to protect “our women and children,” Bennett said.

Toby Jenkins, executive director of the Tulsa-based Oklahomans for Equality, said the bill claiming to be in defiance of the federal directive actually complies with the best practices recommended by the U.S. Department of Education, which respects peoples’ rights to privacy but also accommodates the rights of transgender students.

“Had they paid closer attention to the recommendations, this would have saved them a lot of time, and oddly enough they would have found themselves agreeing with the president,” Jenkins said.

The legislation was introduced on the same day the Legislature sent to Gov. Mary Fallin a bill that would make performing an abortion in Oklahoma a felony, despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade legalizing the procedure nationwide.

Meanwhile, lawmakers have yet to announce a budget agreement and are facing a May 27 adjournment. The state expects to have $1.3 billion less to spend on a fiscal year 2017 budget than it had for this year’s. The hole is the result of depressed energy prices, tax cuts and tax structure, and an inability to reign in tax credits and incentives granted to foster economic activity.

Rep. Jason Dunnington, D-Oklahoma City, said that “as long as our Legislature continues to focus on passing discriminatory and unconstitutional laws instead of helping the actual needs of its people, we will never solve our real problems, ... such as adequately funding education, public safety, infrastructure and health care.”

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Barbara Hoberock 405-528-2465

barbara.hoberock@tulsaworld.com