Here we go again, Oklahoma.

As the popular meme says, it’s been zero days since our last national embarrassment. Oklahoma Sen. Ralph Shortey (R-OKC) has made national headlines after being charged with three felonies:

  1. engaging in child prostitution,
  2. engaging in prostitution within 1,000 feet of a church,
  3. and transporting a minor for prostitution/lewdness.

But this is more than an embarrassment. It is heartbreak for the minor involved, as well as for his family. It is a crisis for Shortey’s family. It is a violation of the public’s trust in our elected officials. It is a tragedy.

It is also a moment for this loudly and proudly Christian state to confess its sins against the LGBTQ community. It is an opportunity to live in the white-hot center of the Gospel as articulated by Jesus when he named the Greatest Commandment: Love God, and love your neighbor.

Incidentally, this includes your LGBTQ neighbor.


For far too long we have been the heartland of homophobia and transphobia, depicting the LGBTQ community as predators and terrorists (again and again). In 2016, Oklahoma legislators introduced 26 anti-LGBTQ bills, more than any other state in the nation. In every case, the author of anti-LGBTQ legislation was a lawmaker waving a Bible overhead.

One of those bills, SB 1014, targeted transgender people for discrimination in bathrooms. Supporters of the measure smeared the transgender community by saying the bill was about the safety of women and children. They repeated this claim while ignoring evidence that there is no correlation between assaults in restrooms and allowing transgender people to use the restroom that corresponds with their gender identity. The author of SB 1014, Sen. Joseph Silk (R-Broken Bow), told the media:

The fear is, if we do that and we say it’s okay to be where you want to be, then we’re not going to know who’s hanging out in the women’s restroom. So, if I send my 8-year-old daughter into the restroom at Pizza Hut, I really don’t know who’s in there.

This was baseless fear-mongering against the transgender community. (Shortey supported this measure, by the way.)

The way things look right now, we should have been worrying about Bible-thumping legislators luring our children into hotel rooms, not transgender women who just want to go to the bathroom.

Anti-LGBTQ legislation continues

This year, SB 197, proposed by Silk, whose campaign features the tagline “faith, family, freedom,” would allow discrimination based on “the sincerely held religious beliefs or conscience of the individual regarding marriage, lifestyle, or behavior.”

Although one can certainly argue that this bill is so broad it would allow discrimination against a wide variety of people (including single moms and interracial couples), it ultimately intends to deny service to same-sex couples based on the “sincerely held belief” that same-sex marriage is a threat to “traditional” marriage.

As a minister who has officiated more than 100 same-sex wedding ceremonies and who just celebrated nine years of marriage to my husband, let me assure you that marriage equality has done nothing but inspire more loving and committed relationships in our community.

Bible condemns power imbalance, not gays

Some claim that the Bible condemns homosexuality, but there is scant evidence that the writers of sacred scripture understood homosexuality as we do. When homosexuality does come up, it is in the context of condemning unbalanced power dynamics in sexual relationships. There is hardly a better example than a 35-year-old man who solicits sex from a teenage boy. The Bible proscribes the power imbalance – not that two males are involved.

Time to confess

Oklahoma, it is past time to confess. Not only have we simply failed to live up to the Greatest Commandment with our LGBTQ neighbors, we are actively harming them with discriminatory legislation.

This is an important moment. Let’s not make it another tragedy.

We’ve had enough of those, haven’t we?