Non-binary Oklahoma lawmaker censured after protest arrest
A Black, non-binary Democratic state legislator in the Oklahoma House was formally censured by the Republican majority on Tuesday, accused of blocking state troopers from questioning a transgender rights activist who was accused of assaulting a police officer.
The party-line vote means Rep. Mauree Turner, who uses they/them pronouns, will be removed from all committee assignments unless Turner issues a formal apology, including to the Highway Patrol.
Turner, the first openly non-binary and Muslim person elected to the Legislature in Oklahoma, said Tuesday that won’t happen.
“I think an apology for loving the people of Oklahoma is something that I cannot do,” said Turner, D-Oklahoma City, flanked by several Democratic colleagues. “It’s something that I actively refuse to do.”
Recent efforts by the GOP-controlled Legislature to prohibit gender-affirming medical care for trans children and pass other anti-trans legislation, including a prohibition on insurance coverage for gender-affirming care for people of all ages, has led to several protests at the Capitol. One protest last week became heated when a protester allegedly poured water on a state representative and scuffled with a trooper before being arrested.
Officers wanted to question the activist, who was inside Turner’s legislative office.
“When we go up to the representative’s office, we were not allowed in, even from opening the door,” said Trooper Eric Foster with the Highway Patrol, which provides security at the Capitol complex.
Officers ultimately were able to speak to the person in Turner’s office, who was later arrested on a complaint of assault and battery on a police officer, Foster said.
Speaker of the House Charles McCall accused Turner in a statement of impeding a law enforcement investigation.
“I will not allow members of the House of Representatives to use their assigned offices and official positions to impede law enforcement from carrying out investigations or making arrests in the state Capitol,” said McCall, R-Atoka.
Turner said protests are happening at the Capitol because the rights of trans people are being stripped away and that one of their goals is making sure all people are welcome at the Capitol.
“I just provide my office as a space of grace and love for all the folks in all communities that seek refuge from the hate in this building,” Turner said. “Trans people don’t feel safe here.”
House Democratic Leader Rep. Cyndi Munson said the House’s censure vote was “absolutely embarrassing.”
“It’s clear what they’re trying to do is silence a member who does not think like them, act like them, dress like them, who challenges their positions, especially when they are running legislation to harm people in our community,” Munson said.
Follow Sean Murphy on Twitter: @apseanmurphy