Law & Principles , Culture & the Family

Ray Carter | March 23, 2023

House votes to ban men from women’s prisons, shelters

Ray Carter

Men could not be placed in women’s prisons or allowed in women’s domestic-violence shelters, or similar facilities, even if the male identifies as a transgender female, under legislation approved by the Oklahoma House of Representatives.

“There are legitimate reasons to distinguish between the sexes in places like on the sports field, prisons, locker rooms, restrooms, and domestic violence shelters,” said state Rep. Toni Hasenbeck, R-Elgin. “Women must have a space to engage in sports, education, and community together safely without constantly worrying about whether their safety and privacy will be protected. Misrepresenting what a woman is in legal issues jeopardizes those things. This declaration is just common sense.”

House Bill 1449, by Hasenbeck, revises state law to define “female” to refer to individuals “whose biological reproductive system is developed to produce ova” while “male” would be defined as an individual “whose biological reproductive system is developed to fertilize the ova of a female,” and “sex” would refer to a person’s “biological sex at birth.”

“If I say I’m a woman, then you should believe me.” —State Rep. Trish Ranson (D-Stillwater)

The legislation states, “Any policy, program, or statute that prohibits sex discrimination shall be construed to forbid unfair treatment of females or males in relation to similarly situated members of the opposite sex. The state or its political subdivisions shall not be prohibited from establishing distinctions between sexes when such distinctions are substantially related to an important government objective, including, but not limited to, biology, privacy, safety, or fairness in locations and circumstances such as prisons or other detention facilities, domestic violence shelters, rape crisis centers, athletics and locker rooms, and restrooms.”

Opponents said that banning males (who identify as transgender females) from women’s facilities is equivalent to Jim Crow laws that mandated segregation based on race.

“If we are ready to create an Oklahoma that says, ‘separate but equal,’ I truly ask you to really reconsider why you’re here, taking another step, each session, each week this session, to deny Oklahomans access to Oklahoma,” said state Rep. Mauree Turner, D-Oklahoma City.

State Rep. Trish Ranson, D-Stillwater, indicated that self-identification should be the standard for admission into women’s facilities.

“If I say I’m a woman, then you should believe me,” Ranson said.

She also said the bill “is not good for our businesses and it’s not good for our economy.”

State Rep. Jared Deck, D-Norman, said the bill would impose a burden on individuals who are born intersex, noting that up to one in 1,500 births are intersex, meaning they have ambiguous genitalia due to chromosomal abnormalities.

“Is this our role to define genitalia, to define what reproduction is, to define reproductive organs?” Deck said.

But Hasenbeck noted that allowing men into women’s facilities has resulted in abuse and rape of women by those men in some instances, noting cases in prison settings in particular.

“If we can do this and we can protect a woman in a women’s prison from any type of danger or harm like that, that’s what I’m going to do,” Hasenbeck said.

HB 1449 passed the Oklahoma House of Representatives on a 76-19 vote. It now proceeds to the Oklahoma Senate.

Ray Carter Director, Center for Independent Journalism

Ray Carter

Director, Center for Independent Journalism

Ray Carter is the director of OCPA’s Center for Independent Journalism. He has two decades of experience in journalism and communications. He previously served as senior Capitol reporter for The Journal Record, media director for the Oklahoma House of Representatives, and chief editorial writer at The Oklahoman. As a reporter for The Journal Record, Carter received 12 Carl Rogan Awards in four years—including awards for investigative reporting, general news reporting, feature writing, spot news reporting, business reporting, and sports reporting. While at The Oklahoman, he was the recipient of several awards, including first place in the editorial writing category of the Associated Press/Oklahoma News Executives Carl Rogan Memorial News Excellence Competition for an editorial on the history of racism in the Oklahoma legislature.

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