Ray Carter | March 15, 2021
Ban on controversial ‘training’ sidelined
With Marxist-derived “critical race theory” and its offshoots being imposed in more institutions, several state Republican lawmakers filed legislation this year to prevent government-funded entities from mandating the controversial training, which critics say endorses explicit racism and social division.
But none of those bills has advanced in this year’s session and, in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, one measure was sidelined after opponents said it would make Oklahoma “very white.”
House Bill 1888, by Rep. Danny Williams, would have banned any state or local government entity in Oklahoma from conducting “any form of gender or sexual diversity training or counseling.”
When the bill was brought up for a hearing on the House floor this month, Williams said those topics need “to be discussed outside of government.”
“It’s not the responsibility of government to explain or to go into detail about training and counseling in these areas,” said Williams, R-Seminole. “That’s my opinion. We may have a difference of opinion. Those things should be discussed, looked at, outside of government because we’re not qualified to deal with it.”
He noted the issue of sexual diversity has morphed to the point that no one can claim to be a credible expert able to provide valid training, particularly in a government-mandated setting.
“In my research about gender, there are about 270 different ‘gender types,’” Williams said, “and there’ no way anybody in this room is a specialist on 272 gender types.”
When questioned by critics of the bill, Williams indicated such issues should be discussed between private citizens at a time, place, and form of their own choosing.
“We talked about this, maybe about 30 seconds over here, and the point that you were trying to make was that you care about my feelings and you care about me as a human being, right?” asked Rep. Mauree Turner, an Oklahoma City Democrat who self-identifies as “gender non-conforming.”
“That’s correct,” Williams responded.
But critics indicated such training should be the norm in government settings, including those serving young children.
“Are you saying that if a school violates this, then we are pulling their funding from them?” asked Rep. Emily Virgin, D-Norman.
“Yes ma’am,” Williams responded.
Rep. Jacob Rosecrants, D-Norman, said universities could be sued under federal law if they do not provide sexual diversity training, and Turner indicated such training should be widespread.
“This bill, quite honestly, is an attack on the First Amendment rights of city council members, police officers, local schools,” Turner said.
“This is dehumanizing folks,” said Rep. Monroe Nichols, D-Tulsa, who called the bill “hot garbage.”
“This is an incredibly harmful bill, and it is offensive to people who are in this room,” said Rep. Forrest Bennett, D-Oklahoma City.
But supporters noted such training creates the hostile work environment that supporters of the training typically decry.
Rep. Justin Humphrey, R-Lane, said he has been contacted by employees at Oklahoma State University who have been required to take training that includes material that “degraded certain races, degraded religion, degraded the police.”
Humphrey said he also received a complaint from a minority student at East Central University at Ada who was upset by materials that taught “certain races were bad, certain political groups were bad, certain religions were bad.”
“These were hour sessions that she was afraid if she stood up and said her opinion, that she would be flunked, that she would have retaliation,” Humphrey said. “And she reached out to me, very upset.”
He said an instructor at Southeastern Oklahoma State University in Durant had contacted him with “the same concerns.”
“I am highly offended, seriously offended, by people who preach this kind of hate,” Humphrey said.
Opponents of HB 1888 suggested the bill was tied to white supremacy, even though the legislation did not address race.
Rep. Denise Brewer, D-Tulsa, said Oklahoma has “a terrible reputation for being a very white state.”
“It also sounded like you really want to keep it a very white Oklahoma,” said Brewer, who—like most members of the House Democratic caucus—is white.
According to data posted at the website of World Population Review, 33 states have a larger share of their population identified as white than does Oklahoma. States with a higher share of white population include many considered much more politically liberal, including Washington, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Minnesota, Oregon, Vermont, and Maine.
Williams repeatedly noted his view that government’s role is not to impose one view about sexual diversity upon the larger population and, even if that was a proper role for government, that state officials lack the expertise to do so competently.
“You look around this room, would you want training and counseling done by everybody in this room?” Williams asked. “Well, I wouldn’t in those areas.”
HB 1888 was set aside as floor debate was set to begin. It was not brought up again and did not receive a vote by the deadline for House floor action.
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.