Freedom Oklahoma’s nonpartisan campaign to secure full nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people nationwide. Our work brings together Republicans, Independents, and Democrats, businesses large and small, people of faith, and allies from all walks of life to make the case for comprehensive non-discrimination protections that ensure everyone is treated fairly and equally.
With the ultimate goal of securing municipal and statewide non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ Oklahomans, Freedom Oklahoma works at the state and local level to advance measures and laws protecting from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression – without allowing overly broad and harmful religious exemptions that will encourage employers, business owners or others to choose to disregard those protections.
LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer) individuals face a particular set of challenges, both in becoming homeless as well as when they are trying to avoid homelessness. LGBTQ individuals face social stigma, discrimination, and often rejection by their families, which adds to the physical and mental strains/challenges that all homelessness persons must struggle with.
Frequently, the queer homeless population is faced with great difficulty finding shelters that accept and respect them. LGBTQ individuals experiencing homelessness are often at a heightened risk of violence, abuse, and exploitation compared with their heterosexual peers. Transgender people are particularly at physical risk due to a lack of acceptance and are often turned away from shelters; in some cases signs have been posted barring their entrance.
In the coming year, one of Freedom Oklahoma’s major focuses through public education and advocacy will be to include gender identity, sexual orientation, and gender expression into Oklahoma’s existing hate crimes protections. There is indisputable evidence that violent, bias- motivated crimes are a serious, widespread problem in Oklahoma, and across the United States. It’s not the frequency or number of these incidents that set them apart from other crimes. It is the effect they have on the victims, their families, their communities and, in some instances, the whole state or nation.
Every day, transgender and gender non-conforming people bear the brunt of social and economic marginalization due to discrimination based on their gender identity or expression. Advocates confront this reality regularly working with transgender people who have lost housing, been fired from jobs, experienced mistreatment and violence, or been unable to access the health care they need. Too often, policymakers, service providers, the media and society at large have dismissed or discounted the needs of transgender and gender non-conforming people, and a lack of hard data on the scope of anti-transgender discrimination has hampered the work to make substantive policy changes to address these needs.
Oklahoma once again made national headlines during the 2015 and 2016 legislative sessions because state Representative Sally Kern proposed legislation that would have provided special protection for abusive behavioral health practices by removing professional oversight from licensed mental health professionals. Numerous state and national professional mental health organizations along with a substantial community coalition came out strongly opposed to this legislation. HB 1598 created the Parental and Family Rights in Counseling Protection Act and while it was passed through the House committee on Children, Youth and Family Services, this legislation died on the House floor.
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