‘Trans Lives Matter’ Protestors Occupy Oklahoma Capitol
Around 150 “trans lives matter” protestors occupied the Oklahoma Capitol on Monday, carrying signs and chanting so loudly that their shouts echoed off the rotunda. “When the chanting was at its loudest, it was difficult to hear the person talking next to you,” reported local news station KFOR, which also said that the “demonstrators were let in by Oklahoma State Troopers and Capitol security staff.”
The protestors gathered outside the doors of the Oklahoma House chamber, where Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt (R) was scheduled to deliver his 2023 State of the State Address. State senators had to pass through the crowd to reach the House chamber for his speech.
The protestors gathered in opposition to SB 129, the Millstone Act, which would protect young people under the age of 26 from harmful, irreversible gender transition procedures. According to a press release, Oklahoma Senator David Bullard, who introduced the bill, “chose the age of 26 to account for scientific findings that the brain does not fully develop and mature until the mid- to late 20s with the prefrontal cortex, the part responsible for critical skills like planning and controlling urges, developing last.” Protest organizers equated the legislation to “genocide.”
The Millstone Act derives its name from Matthew 18:6, “whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.”
The Millstone Act states, “A physician or other healthcare professional shall not provide gender transition procedures to any individual under twenty-six (26) years of age.” Under the law, “‘Gender transition procedures’ means any medical or surgical service … that seeks to: (1) alter or remove physical or anatomical characteristics or features that are typical for the individual’s biological sex, or (2) instill or create physiological or anatomical characteristics that resemble a sex different from the individual’s biological sex.” The bill makes performing a gender transition procedure a felony prosecutable up to 40 years later, requires the “immediate revocation” of any medical license, and creates a private right of action. It also prohibits public funds from being used for gender transition procedures.
On Wednesday, the Oklahoma Senate Rules Committee passed SB 129 out of committee by a vote of 16-2, recommending that the legislature pass it as amended; it now goes to the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Much like its neighbor in Missouri, the Oklahoma legislature is considering multiple bills in the 2023 legislative session that would prohibit the performance of gender transition procedures on young people. In addition to The Millstone Act (SB 129), SB 252 and HB 1011 pursue substantially the same object, with variations on the age limit and means of enforcement.
HB 1011 would protect individuals under age 21, provide for enforcement until the victimized individual turns 45, and specify the maximum punishments for the felony charge (up to $100,000 and/or 10 years in prison).
SB 252 would protect individuals under 18, and its only means of enforcement would be through “professional discipline” by state licensing agencies, “up to and including suspension or revocation of any license or certification required to practice.”
A separate bill, SB 250, would make any provider of gender transition procedures (without age limit) ineligible “for reimbursement through Medicaid or any other federal or state program or any other funding from any political subdivision of this state.” Last September, the Oklahoma legislature overwhelmingly passed into law HB 1007 (2022), which appropriated $39.4 million from the American Rescue Plan Act with the stipulation that the funds could not be used for “gender reassignment medical treatment” for children.
Despite the protest outside the House chamber, Governor Stitt delivered his State of the State address, calling on legislators to take action to “protect our most vulnerable — our children.” He didn’t favor one bill over another, but simply urged the legislature to “send me a bill that bans all gender transition surgeries and hormone therapies on minors in the state.”
“After all, minors can’t vote, can’t purchase alcohol, can’t purchase cigarettes. … We shouldn’t allow a minor to get a permanent, gender-altering surgery in Oklahoma,” said Stitt. “As governor, I will never shy away from calling out right from wrong.”
Stitt continued, “I will not be intimidated by partisan interest groups or make decisions based on groupthink” — a remark with heightened poignance given the situation outside.
Reporters and analysts have clashed over how to characterize Monday’s “trans lives matter” protest in Oklahoma City. Multiple conservatives labelled it an “insurrection,” making overt comparisons to the events at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021.
Meanwhile, local and mainstream media sought to counter that narrative with articles structured to give the last word to those defending the protest. In one article, titled, “Trans-rights group peacefully protests at Oklahoma Capitol,” the reporter directly refuted allegations that the protestors “stormed and occupied” the Capitol and were “militant.” “Those characterizations are not accurate,” he said, and were made by “political commentators who were not at Monday’s protest.”
In still a different take, an LGBT publication mocked comparisons to January 6 under the headline, “Activists took over the Oklahoma Capitol to protest anti-trans legislation.”
Protests that swarm into state capitols are becoming increasingly common. Last summer, pro-abortion protestors in Arizona and Indiana tried to force their way into legislative chambers. Left-wing protestors also disrupted proceedings by entering the Texas capitol in 2013 and the Wisconsin capitol in 2011.
In Oklahoma, however, activists for the LGBT agenda face an uphill battle in their efforts to stop the ruby-red state from passing legislation to protect children from gender transition procedures. Republicans hold a 40-8 majority (83%) in the Oklahoma House and an 81-20 majority (80%) in the Oklahoma Senate. While similar measures have faltered in other conservative states (like South Dakota) due to opposition from the governor, Oklahoma Governor Stitt has officially endorsed “a bill that bans all gender transition surgeries and hormone therapies on minors.”
Joshua Arnold is a staff writer at The Washington Stand.