Oklahoma Bill Seeks to Prohibit State Agencies from Celebrating Pride Month

State Agencies Prohibited from Celebrating Pride
Credits: France 24

A new bill presented in the Oklahoma Legislature on Monday seeks to prohibit state agencies from celebrating LGBTQ Pride Month or displaying rainbow Pride flags on state property at any time of the year.

Dubbed the “Patriotism Not Pride Act,” the legislation, introduced by Republican State Representative Kevin West, aims to prevent state agencies from utilizing public funds for activities, events, initiatives, communications, social media posts, educational programs, or public campaigns promoting or recognizing LGBTQ Pride Month or similar themes.

If the bill is passed, it would prompt an immediate state of emergency deemed “necessary for the preservation of the public peace, health, or safety.”

State Agencies from Celebrating Pride
State Agencies from Celebrating Pride (Credits: National Geographic)

Additionally, the legislation would ban any flag representing sexual orientation or gender identity from being displayed on state property or grounds.

This proposal, spearheaded by West and supported by Republican State Senator David Bullard, is among the initial efforts to restrict the use of state funds for Pride initiatives and celebrations.

Earlier this year, legislators in at least two other states, Florida and Tennessee, introduced bills targeting rainbow Pride flags in schools. Florida’s bill goes further, prohibiting government employees, including lawmakers, from displaying rainbow flags.

West and Bullard have not yet responded to requests for comments on the proposed legislation.

Nicole McAfee, the executive director of Freedom Oklahoma, an LGBTQ advocacy group, criticized the bill, stating that it is “clearly designed to chill speech” and disrupt the ability of Oklahoma agencies to serve LGBTQ individuals.

She emphasized the diverse presence of LGBTQ individuals in Oklahoma, spanning small towns, big cities, tribal lands, and everything in between. McAfee expressed disappointment in Representative Kevin West’s persistent focus on targeting and isolating LGBTQ Oklahomans.

This bill is part of a broader wave of legislation targeting LGBTQ individuals, both in Oklahoma and across the nation.

In the current year alone, nearly 400 such bills have been introduced by state lawmakers, with Oklahoma leading the count by introducing 54 of them, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which monitors such legislation.

LGBTQ Pride Month, initially recognized in June 1970, commemorates the 1969 Stonewall uprising in New York City, a pivotal moment in the modern gay rights movement. President Bill Clinton was the first to officially recognize the month in 1999, declaring June as “Gay and Lesbian Pride Month.”

Over the past two years, the Pride flag, introduced in 1978 at the Gay Freedom Day march in San Francisco, has faced increased criticism and acts of vandalism.

Instances include damage to Pride flags outside the Stonewall National Monument in New York, the burning of a Pride flag outside an Arizona city hall, and the burning of a Pride flag outside a New York City restaurant.

Disputes over Pride flags have even escalated to violence, as seen in the fatal shooting of California business owner Laura Ann Carleton in August, allegedly due to objections to the Pride flag displayed outside her store.

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