OKLAHOMA CITY - An email sparked quite a bit of controversy at the Oklahoma capitol Monday.
The email from a staffer warned there were “cross-dressers” in the capitol building.
About 70 teens from Tulsa went to the capitol to meet with lawmakers when the email came out.
The email had instructions giving pages permission to use the staff bathrooms, rather than the public ones, because of the people who were in the building.
The email read:
“As per the Speaker’s offices, pages are being allowed access to the ladies restroom across from 401, for today. Again, there are cross-dressers in the building.”
Rep. Emily Virgin had just finished speaking to a group on HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.
“With the situation with Senator Shortey, we know there are people who are preying on young folks in Oklahoma. They’re not transgender. [Shortey] was someone a part of our body until just a couple weeks ago,” Virgin said.
Troy Stevenson with Freedom Oklahoma was outraged.
“It was biased and unnecessary and shows a culture and climate of bias at the capitol,” Stevenson said.
Last year, advocates fought hard to defeat the transgender bathroom bill.
They said Monday’s email was a setback for them.
“That is the people’s house. It’s not owned by a group of lawmakers. It’s our house. It is where we should be able to go to advocate for ourselves,” Stevenson said.
Our crews went to the Speaker’s office Monday but only got a written statement.
“The email was not authorized by me, my staff or my office. It was sent unilaterally by a House staff member without any input or permission. I was unaware that such an email was being sent, and the remarks contained in the email are not condoned by me or the Office of the Speaker. As Speaker, all Oklahomans should feel welcome in the Oklahoma Capitol building. We are looking into this matter, and it will be taken seriously,” said Speaker Charles McCall.
“I’m happy that he’s chosen to speak out on this issue, but it needs to be a bigger statement as a whole. No matter your race, identity, your sexual orientation, how you identify, if you’re a citizen of the state of Oklahoma, you are welcome in your state capitol,” Virgin said.
ALCU of Oklahoma Executive Director Ryan Kiesel said Monday it’s not enough to say LGBTQ Oklahomans are welcome at the capitol.
“Of course, they are welcome at the capitol. It is their building as much as it as any other Oklahomans'. To welcome them to the capitol is little consolation to LGBTQ Oklahomans who, if SB 197 had become law, would have been unwelcome in many other places in Oklahoma. If Speaker McCall wants a truly welcoming state, then he needs to commit that hateful and discriminatory legislation will have no safe harbor in the House of Representatives as long as he is Speaker of the House,” Kiesel said.