It’s not that I was overtaken with surprise when I heard about Oklahoma State Senator Steve Russell’s thinly veiled assault on the prosecution of GLBT hate crimes. Russell presents the bill as a states’ rights measure, and he can’t even do that without sounding like an Alabama sheriff circa 1955:
Russell said the bill is meant to prevent the federal law enforcement officials from taking over a case and applying different standards when local law enforcement has already investigated a case.
— The Oklahoman, March 11, 2010
If you close your eyes, you can imagine this guy dressed like Jackie Gleason in Cannonball Run, thumbs hooked through his suspenders, explainin’ why we don’t need no Fed’rul Gub’mint sniffin’ around our hate crimes.
Putting all that aside for a moment, though, here’s something to ruminate on: Due either to sloppy proofreading or outright idiocy, apparently the bill, as introduced, accidentally subjected race- and religion-based hate crimes to the strictures Russell would’ve applied to those based on sexual orientation (thanks to The Pennsylvania Progressive and Right Wing Watch for the tip.) In short, Russell, in introducing this
shit legislation, is saying, on behalf of the Oklahomans he represents, “We’re not just bigoted — We’re also not so bright!”
It’s hard for me to discuss this for very long without charging headlong into name-calling and profanity; fortunately, this story pretty much tells itself. In one of many bits of irony splattered all over the place, Russell basically gutted an education bill and replaced its content with his own completely different bill.
Also ironic but more straight-up depressing, though, is the fact that I’m sure Russell, et al., are utterly ignorant of the parallels between the societal situations that make hate crimes bills necessary. Yesterday’s blacks and Jews are today’s GLBTs, and if nobody’s noticed that the one constant in this line of thought seems to be that you’re only really OK if you’ve got someone to hate, I can’t say I’d be entirely surprised.
On a semi-related note, I’m intrigued by the differences in press coverage of this incident. The Oklahoman yielded exactly one story on the whole thing, with no follow-up whatsoever. The World did better, with a couple of briefs and a good follow-up story by Randy Krehbiel, whose reporting is consistently among the best that paper has to offer. But neither of the major dailies mentioned the fairly glaring error — aside from the blogs cited above, the only press citation of this particular legislative fuck-up (the proofreading mistake, not the original bill itself) I could find was in The Oklahoma Daily, the University of Oklahoma’s student newspaper. This little wrinkle does a lot, I think, to flesh out our state’s narrative, even if it’s a particularly unsavory bit of that story. Kudos to the students running the Daily for that.