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Oklahoma senator says of LGBTQ kids, ‘We don’t want that filth in our state’

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“We don’t want that filth in our state,” an Oklahoma state senator said of LGBTQ students, who are being targeted by at least 50 Republican-supported bills in the legislature with full endorsement from the secretary of education.

Sen. Tom Woods, a Republican from far northeastern Oklahoma, made the comments two weeks after a nonbinary student who was being bullied at school died suddenly under mysterious circumstances.

Wood spoke at a Feb. 23 Legislative Update sponsored by Tahlequah Area Chamber of Commerce that also included State Rep. David Hardin, State Sen. Blake “Cowboy” Stephens and State Sen. Dewayne Pemberton. All are Republicans.

Tom Woods

According to the Norman Transcript, audience member Cathy Cott asked the legislators two questions: Why State Superintendent of Public Instruction Ryan Walters was “bullying” school districts and referring to teachers as “terrorists” and, “Why does the Legislature have such an obsession with the LGBTQ citizens of Oklahoma and what people do in their personal lives and how they raise their children?”

When none of the legislators answered the second question, Cott stood up again and demanded an answer, referencing the death of nonbinary student Nex Benedict at Owasso High School, a suburb of Tulsa.

Woods replied: “We are a Republican state — supermajority — in the House and Senate. I represent a constituency that doesn’t want that filth in Oklahoma.”

Audio of the event shows some in the audience clapping in response.

“We are going to fight it to keep that filth out of the state of Oklahoma because we are a Christian state.”

Wood continued: “We are a religious state and we are going to fight it to keep that filth out of the state of Oklahoma because we are a Christian state – we are a moral state,” Woods said. “We want to lower taxes and let people be able to live and work and go to the faith they choose. We are a Republican state and I’m going to vote my district, and I’m going to vote my values, and we don’t want that in the state of Oklahoma.”

Woods represents Adair County and parts of Cherokee, Sequoyah and Delaware counties, all around Tahlequah, known in American history as the end of the Trail of Tears.

While news of the senator’s comments are just now making news, the death of the 16-year-old student in Owasso already is national headlines. By various testimony — including a video made of the student and the student’s mother in the hospital — Benedict had been bullied by three girls at the school for months. That culminated with the three girls jumping Benedict in a girls’ restroom at school.

Nex Benedict

Initial reports indicated Benedict died from the trauma of that beating, but law enforcement and the family now have said that was not the cause of death. But what caused an otherwise healthy teenager to be dead the next day has not been said.

By Benedict’s own testimony, the other girls were “beating the shit out of me” and caused the student to black out.

Although Benedict had been harassed by the girls for perhaps a year, school officials blamed Benedict for starting the fight and had assigned two weeks of in-school detention as punishment Benedict did not live to serve.

The American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Oklahoma, and Lambda Legal issued a statement pointing to the danger of a state law passed in 2022 that requires public school students to use the restrooms that match their gender assigned at birth.

“We are gravely heartbroken to learn about the death of Nex Benedict and extend our overwhelming condolences to their family, their friends, and the entire transgender community across Oklahoma,” the statement said. “The assault on Nex is an inevitable result of the hateful rhetoric and discriminatory legislation targeting Oklahoma trans youth. We challenged Oklahoma’s law requiring schools to discriminate against students like Nex because we believe every student should have the safe and affirming environment they need to thrive, and policies that put transgender students in danger make schools less safe places for all students.”

As news of the case spread nationwide, even President Joe Biden issued a statement calling for all schools to be safer for LGBTQ students.


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