Controversial hate crimes bill to be considered in state senate
OKLAHOMA CITY — A controversial hate crimes bill will be considered this spring in the Oklahoma legislature.
State Sen. Steve Russell filed a bill that would limit what the state of Oklahoma would do when it came to investigating hate crimes while also protecting religious speech, Russell's secretary told The Daily Tuesday.
She said Russell filed the bill before the filing deadline last week, but did not release a press release announcing his filing of the legislation.
“The federal government should not be creating a special class of people, and that is just what they did when they passed and signed this bill,” Russell told The Daily in November. “All crimes against another person have some level of hate in them, and people can be assured that our laws that protect people against crimes such as murder are sufficient to protect everyone.”
Russell said because the government has decided to intervene on issues of morality, he is worried that religious leaders who speak out against any lifestyle could be imprisoned for their speech.
Russell came under fire for his proposed legislation and comments that compared gays and lesbians to necrophiliacs.
“The law is very vague to begin with,” Russell said. “Sexual orientation is a very vague word that could be extended to extremes like necrophilia.”
Russell said the expansion of the definition of hate crimes passed by Congress and signed by the president last year is unconstitutional.
“The bill gives the federal government power that was not given to them in the Constitution,” Russell said. “I am aware of the supremacy of the federal government over state governments, but the federal requirements are vague enough for us to make actions. We just have to be very careful on how we proceed.”
When asked about whether the state of Oklahoma should reject the $5 million in federal funds that the federal government would give to law enforcement agencies to help prosecute hate crimes, Russell said he thought about finding a way to pass his law while taking the money, but said it would be a compromise in the values of his bill.
“I understand the state could use all the money it can get, but we can’t compromise our values for some quick cash,” Russell said.