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Oklahoma Rep. Mauree Turner receives threatening calls, emails following censure by House GOP

Democratic Rep. Mauree Turner of Oklahoma City
Oklahoma House of Representatives
Democratic Rep. Mauree Turner of Oklahoma City

Oklahoma City Representative Mauree Turner — the legislature's only open nonbinary member — is the target of attacks on their race, gender and religion following a move earlier this week by House Republicans to formally censure the Democratic lawmaker.

Turner's office says it has received many threatening calls and emails since the censure. In one obscene email, they’re called worthless, a terrorist, a homophobic slur, multiple racist slurs, and their religion — Islam — is ridiculed.

House Republicans stripped the lawmaker of their committee assignments, alleging after a bill hearing to ban gender-affirming care for trans youth, Turner hid a transgender person in their office who was wanted for questioning following a scuffle with a state trooper.

While House Republican leaders accuse Turner of "harboring a fugitive," Democratic leaders dispute the allegations. House Democratic Leader Cyndi Munson said Turner did not impede the investigation or prevent law enforcement from performing their duties.

"This is a historic display of inhumanity by House Republicans to silence anyone who is different from them. It is a manifestation of ignorance and hate," said Munson.

Legislation targets 2SLGBTQ+ community

Oklahoma's current legislative session has seen a constant stream of bills targeting 2SLGBTQ+ people, including legislation seeking to ban some drag performances and restrict gender-affirming medical care for minors. In his State of the State address, Gov. Kevin Stitt identified banning gender-affirming treatment and hormone therapies for minors as some of his top priorities for the session.

Turner's censure can be overturned if they issue an apology, but they say that’s not happening.

"I absolutely will not apologize for being able to create a safe space where the Oklahoma legislature continues to tell trans folks that they should not show up here. I will absolutely continue to create a space to show trans folks, gender-nonconforming folks, two-spirit folks that this is a safe space, right, that even in the midst of everything going on in the Oklahoma legislature, that they can always come to my office," said Turner.

In a Twitter thread this week, Turner said even before the censure, they have been the subject of death threats that have been reported, but not followed up on.

When asked if they feel safe themselves, Turner responded, "No."

"When the people who are supposed to protect you are those that are the folks that you fear, right? Or that might cause you to think twice about, like, 'should I be doing this work?'," said Turner. "It creates a hostile work environment, and I think that wouldn’t make anybody feel safe."

Turner says even if they aren’t allowed to speak in committee meetings, they will still be there.

Help is available

There are resources available for 2SLGBTQ+ people seeking mental health support.

  • Trans Lifeline is a suicide hotline for trans people, run by transgender volunteers. Their hotline number is 877-565-8860.
  • If you are a young person in crisis, feeling suicidal, or in need of a safe and judgment-free place to talk, you can contact The Trevor Project's Trevor Lifeline 24/7 at 1-866-488-7386, via chat every day or by texting "START" to 678-678.
Beth Wallis is StateImpact Oklahoma's education reporter.
Ryan LaCroix is the Director of Content and Audience Development for KOSU.
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