In January, Rod 2.0 reported on Steve Russell, the conservative Oklahoma Republican state senator who proposed to exempt the Sooner State from federal hate crime law provisions. Russell doesn't mind working with the federal government on hate crimes—only those related to his state's LGBT community. The Oklahoma City senator's amendment passed overwhelmingly on Wednesday, reports The Oklahoman.
Under the new provisions of Senate Bill 1965, reports that were collected during investigations of possible hate crime that did not end in a conviction would be destroyed or kept by the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation. Russell said the bill is meant to prevent the federal law enforcement officials from taking over a case and applying different standards when local law enforcement has already investigated a case. Only a few senators questioned Russell about the contents of his proposed amendment. The measure passed 39-6 and now heads to the House for consideration. Russell said his bill is meant to protect speech of all kinds. "We just don’t want the pendulum to swing too far the other way,” he said. "This protects people to do or say whatever they want, as long as it complies with local ordinances." Russell said hate crimes should be prosecuted by local officials and not the federal government.
MetroStar News, the Oklahoma-based LGBT newspaper, explains the practical ramifications: "This would prohibit providing as evidence to Federal authorities a bloody baseball bat or gun used in that type of crime to assist in their prosecution of that hate crime. Since crimes committed due to a victim’s sexual orientation/gender identity are not Hate Crimes under Oklahoma state law, and this restriction would make Federal prosecution of this type of crime in Oklahoma very difficult if not impossible, this would greatly impede Hate Crimes protection for the GLBT community in Oklahoma."
Adds Kathy L. Williams, president of The Equality Network: "Senator Russell's bill is truly terrifying in its implications. This legislation sends the message that violence against LGBT Oklahomans is acceptable. It also sets a chilling precedent that Oklahoma will only enforce certain federal laws and cooperate only with selected federal agencies."
Russell, who has compared homosexuality to necrophilia, is the former commander at Fort Hood.
If the Oklahoma House of Representatives were to pass the bill and the governor were to sign it, it would become state law. If that happens, qquality and civil rights groups say they will immediately challenge its constitutionality.