Targeting Gays, Oklahoma Senate Mistakenly Strips Hate Crimes Protections For Race and Religion

Remember a few weeks ago when the Oklahoma Senate passed an amendment declaring that the state would not cooperate with any federal hate crimes investigation and even mandating that files of potential hate crimes be withheld or destroyed so that they cannot be used to assist in any such investigation? 

The purpose of the amendment was to ensure that the state did not have to abide by the expansion of the federal hate crimes laws to cover things like sexual orientation … only it turns out that there was a problem with the text of the amendment in that it actually stripped protections for race and religion:

A bill intended to remove hate crime protections from gays and lesbians actually takes away rights from everyone else because of a “legislative error,” according to one lawmaker.

Oklahoma State Senate Minority Leader Andrew Rice, D-Oklahoma City, said when the Senate passed Senate Bill 1965 on March 10, it eliminated hate crime protections for race and religion.

The bill states local law enforcement agencies should not enforce any sections of federal law under hate crimes statutes listed under Title 18 U.S. Code Section 245 unless they are in correlation with Oklahoma’s hate crimes laws.

But the protections for sexual orientation and gender identity in the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes, which passed Congress last year, are not listed under Section 245, but Section 249

“The bill in its current form doesn’t take away rights from gays and lesbians,” Rice said. “It takes away rights for religion and race.”