Okla. lawmakers endorse bullying, suicide

We’re kidding, of course, but not completely.

The Oklahoma House voted Monday night to kill a bill that would have outlawed cyberbullying and required schools to enact anti-bullying policies.

The bill’s Republican author, Rep. Lee Denney, said the 52-44 vote “absolutely shocked me.” Denney authored the measure after an 11-year-old in her district who was bullied at school committed suicide.

Opponents of Denney’s bill called it “overkill” and said it would represent another mandate placed on schools by the Legislature.

The Equality Network, Oklahoma’s statewide LGBT advocacy organization, released a statement saying the group is “deeply troubled” by the bill’s defeat. An earlier version of the bill passed the House 74-23 in March.

“This is really sad news for Oklahoma’s students,” said Kathy Williams, president of The Equality Network. “Each day, students are physically attacked and verbally terrorized in our schools. It is disgraceful that our legislators refused to pass even this watered-down bill to help administrators, teachers, parents, and students create safer schools. No one can learn in a climate of fear.”

TEN says a recent study found that only 20 out of 500 school districts in Oklahoma include sexual orientation in policies protecting students. Only two include gender identity. “These omissions leave LGBT students highly vulnerable in districts that do not explicitly protect them from harassment and intimidation,” the group said.

—  John Wright

LGBT group says 2 bills in Okla. would ‘turn back the clock on fifty years of civil rights progress’

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin

Oklahoma’s LGBT advocacy organization, The Equality Network, expressed outrage Tuesday over passage of two bills by the state Legislature.

Discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity is not prohibited by Oklahoma state law. But the two bills would impede the right to sue based on any type of discrimination, according to TEN.

SB763 creates an office of Civil Rights Enforcement. But this office assumes duties of the current independent Oklahoma Human Rights Commission, a state agency, and puts it under the attorney general.

SB837 was intended to modernize language in the state’s nondiscrimination statutes and, in its original form, added “genetic information” to the protected categories. But as the bill made its way through the Legislature, it changed. Under the amended bill, all complaints would have to be made within 180 days of the alleged incident of bias. If the complaint is over employment discrimination, a civil suit could be filed only after obtaining a Notice of a Right to Sue from the Oklahoma Human Rights Commission.

“It is our belief that the Oklahoma Legislature is politicizing and impeding the mechanisms that protect citizens’ civil rights.” TEN President Kathy L. Williams said in a press release. “Without access to the services of an independent and nonpartisan Oklahoma Human Rights Commission, many victims of bias will not have the financial means to pursue civil rights claims against discriminatory employers. In a session where the legislature has already moved to repeal affirmative action and capped noneconomic damage awards, it is clear that many legislators are attempting to shield corporations from any culpability for their actions, however harmful they may be to ordinary Oklahomans.  In our increasingly diverse society, these short-sighted actions will alienate – not attract – the world-class employers our representatives claim they wish to bring to our state.  We cannot turn back the clock on fifty years of civil rights progress and expect Oklahoma to be perceived as forward-thinking, welcoming place.”

Oklahoma’s governor, Mary Fallin, has not said if she will sign the bills. On its Twitter feed, TEN urged people to tell Fallin not to sign the bills. Fallin’s office can be reached at info@gov.ok.gov or 405-521-2342.

—  David Taffet

REGIONAL: Novotny says her advantage is Kern’s extremism

Trans candidate for Oklahoma House says Republican supporters say Kern is ‘on a different level’ from conservative constituents

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

Brittany Novotny
Brittany Novotny

OKLAHOMA CITY — The New York Times named several transgender candidates around the country as having a good chance of election. Among them was Brittany Novotny, running for the Oklahoma Legislature.

Other transgender candidates are running in more likely places like Hawaii, Oregon and California. Theresa Sparks, a candidate for San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors, is seeking the seat once held by Harvey Milk and is seen as the conservative candidate in the race.

Novotny’s district encompasses northern suburbs of Oklahoma City usually considered on the far end of the conservative spectrum. But she said this week her campaign is going well.

While Novotny stays on message, her Republican opponent, incumbent Rep. Sally Kern, rose to fame by calling gays a bigger problem than terrorism. The comment was especially harsh in a district that was home to many of the Oklahoma City bombing victims.

After media criticism every time she spoke about homosexuality, Kern agreed to stick to the issues rather than leveling personal attacks. However, a Kern supporter recently referred to Novotny as “a confused it.”

“The issues in my district are economic development, good jobs, roads and transportation, education,” Novotny said. “Teachers, technology, textbooks.”

Her district is usually characterized as Republican with a conservative incumbent.

Novotny said that isn’t a fair description of the area.

“It’s a moderate swing district,” she said, with an extremist incumbent.

She has been told that 48 percent in her area consider themselves moderate or liberal. People in the area are concerned with jobs, not her gender identity, she said.

“In knocking on 3,000 doors, it’s only come up once,” she said, referring to her gender identity.

Novotny said her Republican supporters have told her, “I’m conservative but Kern is on a different level.”

She believes that will be the margin of difference that will get her elected.

“We feel we have done a good job of sticking to the issues,” Novotny said.

In an interview last month, Houston Mayor Annise Parker commented on Novotny’s approach to the race by concentrating on issues.
“That’s how you win an election,” Parker said.

Novotny said she went to law school because of her interest in going into public service.

“Some thought I was going to be the LGBT candidate,” she said. “But I’ve always been interested in politics.”

Kern refused to debate Novotny in an open town hall forum. Instead they squared off on KFOR, the NBC affiliate in Oklahoma City, on the show Flash Point for 20 minutes.

The Daily Oklahoman, the state’s largest newspaper that is based in Oklahoma City, has declined to endorse in legislative races.

“But they’re not fans of my opponent,” Novotny said.

She spent 45 minutes with the editorial board and said they talked about her values and vision for Oklahoma.

Mara Keisling is the executive director of The National Center for Transgender Equality, an organization that does not endorse candidates. She commented on Novotny’s race and compared it to Parker’s Houston election.

“The people of Houston weren’t looking for a lesbian mayor,” she said. “They were looking for a competent mayor.”

She said the question to voters is: Can she do a better job?

She believes Novotny has a good chance of election because Kern “has a reputation of being controversial.”

Keisling said that if Novotny wins, it will be because people in Oklahoma are concerned about jobs and the economy and want a responsible and mature state representative.

“I never wanted my trans status to hold me back,” Novotny said.

She has out fundraised Kern. In the latest filing, Novotny reported $25,000 to Kern’s $14,000. She is ahead in total raised throughout the campaign as well and has 500 small donors, also more than her opponent.

“I’m real proud of the way we’ve run the campaign and I hope it pays off on Election Day,” she said.

If elected, she would become the first transgender state legislator in the country.

Her election watch party on Nov. 2 will be at the Holiday Inn on Old Route 66 in Bethany, Okla., the same location where she announced her candidacy more than a year ago.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 29, 2010

—  Kevin Thomas

Brittany Novotny fires back at Sally Kern

Brittany Novotny, the transgender candidate who’s challenging anti-gay Republican State Rep. Sally Kern in Oklahoma, has issued a statement responding to an attack last week from a Kern supporter who called Novotny a “confused it.” In the statement titled “How do we move Oklahoma forward?” Novotny notes that Kern issued a statement Sunday attempting to distance herself from the attack:

In a statement released today, Rep. Kern claims that she has “repeatedly asked [her] supporters not to use any degrading or insulting comments toward [me].” Unfortunately, the evidence indicates this is not the case. In a speech on August 7, 2010, Rep. Kern told supporters:

“And this year, in 2010 election, I have a very interesting race, I have an individual who was born a man, has had a sex change operation, and now considers themselves to be a woman. So, if you live in my district or know anyone who does, please get the word out. Because if I say anything about it, it’s gonna look like I’m smearing, and I’m not, it’s just a fact. And ‘they’ talk about it themselves. (Emphasis added).”

Does this rhetoric sound like someone asking her supporters not to use any degrading comments? Does this rhetoric sound like someone who is trying to keep the campaign about the issues facing Oklahomans?

When I announced my intention to run for this seat, Rep. Kern said she planned to keep this campaign focused on issues. As you are now aware, she has failed to keep her word on that count.

Novotny also posted the above video ad, accusing Kern of ignoring real issues to promote “her narrow social agenda” and “her own extremist interpretation of the Bible.” Ya think?

—  David Taffet

Novotny takes on Kern’s attack on liberals

Brittany Novotny

Brittany Novotny, a transgender attorney, is challenging incumbent Sally Kern for her seat in the Oklahoma legislature. The district is in Oklahoma City.

She sent Dallas Voice a letter today taking issue with Kern’s appearance at “Wake Up, America” where Kern took a stand against liberals.

Novotny challenged Kern to deal with the state’s real issues. In the past Kern has said that gays and lesbians were a bigger threat to the country than terrorists.

Other speakers at the conference included “Rev.” Noah Hutchings, known for anti-Catholic rhetoric including calling Pope John Paul II the anti-christ. He predicted the world would end in 1987-88. It didn’t.

Another “Wake Up, America” speaker, Baptist minister Rick Scarborough, spoke “In defense of mixing church and state.”

Open Letter to Rep. Sally Kern: How About Taking on Oklahoma’s Real Problems?

Dear Rep. Kern:

One of my supporters forwarded me a speaking schedule for a conference that took place this past weekend called “Wake Up, America!”  According to the speaker schedule, on Saturday you were to present on the topic of “Taking a Stand Against Liberals.”

This led me to ponder a question.  What exactly do you see as your job as a state legislator?  Is this just a game to you?  Oklahoma is facing real issues that will affect the everyday lives of teachers, police officers, firefighters, construction workers, small business owners, and most important of all our children.

Instead of spending your weekends and your time in the legislature “taking a stand against liberals,” why aren’t you finding solutions to our budget dilemma that will keep teachers in the classroom, police officers and firefighters on the street, construction workers improving our roads and bridges, and small businesses afloat?

Legislating should not be a political game.  Real lives are affected by what goes on in the legislature.  But if you’re too busy “taking a stand against liberals” (of which there are maybe 5 in the 101 seats of the state legislature) to find real funding solutions, then apparently you believe that legislating is just a game.  As long as you’re taking a brave stand against “liberals,” then people shouldn’t worry about the fact that Putnam City Schools just laid of 40 teachers.

After examining your legislative record of the past six years, it appears that your main goal has been to institute a big brother government that looks into the private bedrooms and physician exam rooms of Oklahomans, while doing nothing to address the issues facing Oklahoma’s public schools (which you have stated are “failing our children”) or our crumbling infrastructure.  Targeted tax incentives are great for economic development; across the board tax cuts that bankrupt our public schools and deplete resources that go to public health and safety will not make Oklahoma a more attractive place to do business.

The Journal Record has already taken you to task for “damaging [Oklahoma’s] credibility and inhibiting our state’s ability to conduct business.”

This is OUR future that you’re playing with.  I’m not willing to just stand by and let your crusade against liberals ruin the future of my home, Oklahoma.  That’s why I decided to challenge you, because Oklahomans deserve legislators that are going to work in the Capitol to try and solve our budget crisis.  Oklahomans deserve legislators looking for ways to help our small businesses create jobs.  Oklahomans deserve legislators looking for innovative education solutions to ensure that all children have the tools they need to succeed.  Oklahomans deserve legislators that understand that economic development requires investment in our transportation infrastructure.

In order to solve these problems, I’m willing to work with all of my fellow legislators and fellow Oklahomans. I’ll work with conservatives and liberals, Democrats and Republicans to find solutions that will help us create a brighter future for all Oklahomans. It’s OUR future, let’s stop the divisiveness and start building something better.

Sincerely,

Brittany M. Novotny

—  David Taffet