Oklahoma lawmaker seeks to ban gays from serving openly in state’s National Guard

Posted on 10 Jan 2012 at 10:31am

Rep. Mike Reynolds, R-Oklahoma City

An Oklahoma state legislator has introduced a bill that would effectively reinstate “don’t ask, don’t tell” for the state’s National Guard troops. State Rep. Mike Reynolds, R-Oklahoma City, told the Tulsa World that he filed the bill in response to requests from members of the Oklahoma National Guard:

Reynolds’ bill would amend the existing state law that allows any able-bodied U.S. citizen or person who has declared intentions of becoming a citizen and who is at least 18 years old and not yet 70 to serve in the Guard.

The amendment would prohibit anyone who was ineligible to serve in the U.S. armed forces under federal regulations that were in effect on Jan. 1, 2009, from serving in the Guard.

Reynolds said the state is allowed to set its own standards for service in the National Guard and is not required to duplicate standards for the rest of the U.S. military.

ThinkProgress notes that Reynolds was an endorser of Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s August prayer rally, the Response, and also is a supporter of anti-gay Oklahoma State Rep. Sally Kern:

Last year, Reynolds endorsed the Response, Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s controversial public prayer event, which was organized and attended by a who’s-who of anti-gay leaders. “I am encouraging Oklahomans to join with thousands of other Christians from around the nation in participating in this event. Go and show your support of public prayer,” Reynolds told the Pauls Valley Democrat in July.

A supporter of state Rep. Sally Kern’s (R) “Oklahoma Citizens Proclamation for Morality,” Reynolds has also spoken out against so-called “homosexual activists” after a gay minister recognized a same-sex couple in the gallery during an opening prayer.

Lawmakers in Virginia have also tried to reinstate DADT for the state’s National Guard, but the bill died in committee.

On the presidential campaign trail, Perry has repeatedly touted that fact that as governor, he serves as commander in chief for Texas’ 20,000 National Guard troops. Perry has also said he wants to reinstate DADT. So it’s unclear why Perry hasn’t proposed similar legislation in Texas.

UPDATE: The Human Rights Campaign and The Equality Network of Oklahoma have put out a joint statement responding to Reynolds’ bill. Read it after the jump. Also, HRC has launched a petition which you can sign by going here.

Oklahoma Lawmaker Moves to Ban Gay and Lesbian Service Members from State National Guard

Out of Touch Legislation Would Weaken Oklahoma’s National Guard

Washington – The Human Rights Campaign is joining The Equality Network in condemning legislation Oklahoma Representative Mike Reynolds (R-Oklahoma City) is pushing that would implement a more extreme version of the discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) law, which would be applicable to the state’s National Guard.  The bill would bar gay, lesbian and bisexual individuals from serving in the Oklahoma National Guard. The bill goes beyond the discrimination contained in the now-repealed DADT statute, and allows government officials to directly question someone about their sexual orientation – essentially removing the “Don’t Ask” component contained in DADT.

“Since repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ last year, military leaders have testified that our nation’s military is stronger,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese. “It’s surprising that an Air Force veteran like Representative Reynolds would disagree with our nation’s military leaders and seek to weaken Oklahoma’s National Guard by introducing this legislation. This legislation serves no purpose but to prevent qualified individuals from serving their country and their state.”

“Mike Reynolds has a long-standing history of representing fringe views that rarely have the best interests of all Oklahomans at heart,” said Laura Belmonte of The Equality Network. “This legislation is demoralizing to Oklahoma’s LGBT community and our supporters, and it sends a message that it is acceptable to discriminate against people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. At a time of growing momentum for equality at the national level, this legislation will turn back the clock on advancements at the state-level.”

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen said the day after implementation of repeal: “…with implementation of the new law fully in place, we are a stronger joint force, a more tolerant joint force, a force of more character and more honor, more in keeping with our own values.” Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said: “Thanks to this change, I believe we move closer to achieving the goal at the foundation of the values that America is all about:  equality, equal opportunity and dignity for all Americans.”

If the bill were to become law, Oklahoma would join countries like China, Iran, Syria, North Korea and Pakistan in prohibiting gays and lesbians from serving their country.

Oklahoma’s new legislative session begins February 6.

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