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Oklahoma state senator calls LGBTQ+ people 'filth' when asked about death of nonbinary student

Sen. Tom Woods (R-Westville)
Oklahoma Senate
Sen. Tom Woods (R-Westville)

A state senator from eastern Oklahoma called LGBTQ+ people “filth” when asked about the death of Nex Benedict.

Benedict was a nonbinary 16-year-old Owasso High School student who died on Feb. 8 after a fight in the school bathroom the day prior. While police say early autopsy results show Nex didn’t die from head injuries, Nex’s mother Sue Benedict said they were frequently bullied.

According to the Tahlequah Daily Press, Republican Sen. Tom Woods was asked at a public forum Friday what he thought of Nex's death in light of legislation limiting rights of trans youth.

Woods said his heart goes out regarding Nex’s death, but then spoke in reference to LGBTQ+ people overall.

"We are a religious state. We are going to fight to keep that filth out of the state of Oklahoma, because we’re a Christian state. We’re a rural state. We want to lower taxes, and for people to live and work, and to go to the faith they choose," he said.

Public Radio Tulsa has reached out to Woods for comment on if he maintains that sentiment in reference to LGBTQ+ constituents.

Woods was elected to the state senate in November 2022. His district runs along the eastern border of Oklahoma from Fort Smith to Grove, and touches Tahlequah.

At the forum, Republican Sen. Dewayne Pemberton, a former teacher, said he's always seen educators' jobs as "to educate students, not indoctrinate students."

On Monday, Senate President Pro Tem Greg Treat released a statement saying that he told Woods that his comments were "reprehensible and inappropriate."

Senate Democratic Leader Kay Floyd categorized Woods' remarks as "unbecoming of an elected official."

Nex's death has prompted responses from national LGBTQ+ rights organizations and from Vice President Kamala Harris. On Thursday, Harris said in a post on X that she offers condolences to Nex's family, and that she and President Joe Biden "stand with" LGBTQ+ youth."

Updated: February 26, 2024 at 2:41 PM CST
Updated to include statements by Greg Treat and Kay Floyd.
Max Bryan is a news anchor and reporter for KWGS.
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