OKLAHOMA CITY — In the Oklahoma Legislature’s continued targeting of Oklahoma’s transgender residents, a Senate panel passed a bill on Wednesday that would ban the use of public money for gender-affirming care for transgender people in the state.
The panel also passed a separate bill that would also ban lewd acts in public places.
The Senate Appropriations Committee passed Senate Bill 129 by Sen. David Bullard, R-Durant, by a vote of 14-6. The measure now moves to the full Senate for consideration.
Bullard said the measure would prohibit public funds from paying any part of a person’s transition from one sex to another. According to the bill itself, it would apply to “any medical or surgical treatment including but not limited to physician’s services, inpatient and outpatient hospital services, or prescribed drugs.”
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“You cannot cure gender dysphoria with a knife,” Bullard said.
Many physicians who provide care for transgender people in the state work for hospitals that receive state funding.
Bullard’s measure would not prohibit public funds for care after the transition process, he said.
The bill says it would not apply to treatment for depression or anxiety or for treating issues with delayed or “precocious” puberty and would not apply to services for people born with ambiguous, incomplete or both male and female genitalia.
Bullard said the measure, which was presented as a committee substitute, would not apply to private pay or private insurance.
A day earlier, the House of Representatives passed and sent to the Senate HB 2177, which addresses the same issues, and sent it to the Senate for consideration.
Another bill on the issues, Senate Bill 613, by Sen. Julie Daniels, R-Bartlesville, passed the Senate two weeks ago.
In arguing against Bullard’s bill on Wednesday, Sen. Julia Kirt, D-Oklahoma City, said it “limits access to care and medical expertise for all ages of Oklahomans.”
“This limits the ability to serve patients effectively, and it limits the ability for people to receive the care they need,” Kirt said.
Sen. Carri Hicks, D-Oklahoma City, said the measure would further the physician shortage the state is experiencing.
In other business, the panel also passed Senate Bill 503, also by Bullard, which would prohibit lewd acts in public. The measure is believed to be aimed at some drag shows.
It passed by a vote of 15-5. The measure now heads to the Senate floor for consideration.
The measure defines a public place as an area or space that the general public may access and may participate or take part in any event without payment for admission.
It applies to parades, shows, concerts, plays, or any other activities where a minor could witness lewd acts or obscene material.
The bill describes lewd acts as “any sexual behavior imitating sex or sexual acts, groping, indecent exposure of genitalia or sexual paraphernalia, display of replicas of genitalia, sexually touching oneself or someone else, or convincing or forcing someone else to sexually touch or observe sexual behavior.”
Violators would be guilty of a felony, and the measure also would allow for civil suits for violations of the act.
“We are ensuring and making sure that minors and people who don’t want to see those things in public places don’t see them,” Bullard said.
Senate Minority Leader Kay Floyd, D-Oklahoma City, said that from her research and understanding, “this is a nationwide platform for a certain party to push this agenda.”
“I am not aware of that,” Bullard said.
Sen. Michael Brooks, D-Oklahoma City, said the issue was manufactured about nine months ago.
“This is a culture war distraction from what really matters at the Capitol,” Brooks said.
Hicks said she was very concerned that the measure would limit free speech.
Kirt asked whether the measure applied to how people dressed.
Bullard said it could apply if the clothing exposes genitalia or other parts of the body.
Under questioning by Sen. Kevin Matthews, D-Tulsa, Bullard said the measure also could apply to dancing.
“I like to dance,” Matthews said. “I just hate for someone to subjectively decide I get a felony for the way I dance.”