LGBT rights in Oklahoma

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Map of USA OK.svg
StatusLegal statewide since 2003
(Lawrence v. Texas)
Gender identityState alters sex on birth certificates for transgender people
Discrimination protectionsNone statewide
Family rights
Recognition of relationshipsMarriage since 2014
AdoptionLegal since 2014

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons in the U.S. state of Oklahoma enjoy most of the rights available to non-LGBT residents. Same-sex sexual activity is legal in Oklahoma and both same-sex marriage and adoption by same-sex couples have been legal since October 2014. The state does not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, leaving an estimated 62,000 LGBT workers in Oklahoma vulnerable to employment discrimination.[1]

Law regarding same-sex sexual activity[edit]

Same-sex sexual activity has been legal in Oklahoma since 2003, when the United States Supreme Court struck down all state sodomy laws with its ruling in Lawrence v. Texas.[2][3]

Recognition of same-sex relationships[edit]


In April 2004, the Oklahoma Senate, by a vote of 38 to 7, and the Oklahoma House of Representatives, by a vote of 92 to 4, approved a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. On November 2, 2004, Oklahoma voters approved Oklahoma Question 711, a constitutional amendment which bans same-sex marriage and any "legal incidents thereof be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups".[4][5][6] On January 14, 2014, Judge Terence C. Kern, of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma, declared Question 711 unconstitutional. The case, Bishop v. United States (formerly Bishop v. Oklahoma), was stayed pending appeal.[7] A 3-judge panel of the Tenth Circuit heard oral arguments in Bishop on April 17, 2014, and upheld the district court's decision on July 18.[8]

On October 6, 2014, the United States Supreme Court turned down Oklahoma's appeal which reinstates the district court's ruling that the state's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. Following the court's rejection of the appeal, the Oklahoma County Court Clerk's Office and others across the state started issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.[9]

Adoption and parenting[edit]

Oklahoma permits adoption by a couple or an unmarried adult without regard to sexual orientation.[10]

In August 2007, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in the case of Finstuen v. Crutcher ordered Oklahoma to issue a revised birth certificate showing both adoptive parents to a child born in Oklahoma who had been adopted by a same-sex couple married elsewhere.[11]

Oklahoma law allows adoption agencies to choose not to place children in certain homes if it "would violate the agency’s written religious or moral convictions or policies."[12]

Discrimination protections[edit]

Map of Oklahoma counties and cities that have sexual orientation and/or gender identity anti–employment discrimination ordinances
  Sexual orientation and gender identity in both public and private employment
  Sexual orientation in public employment
  Does not protect sexual orientation and gender identity in employment

Oklahoma law does not address discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation.[13]

The city of Norman has a nondiscrimination policy that prohibits discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity,[14][15] while the cities of Edmond,[16] Oklahoma City and Tulsa have nondiscrimination policies that prohibit discrimination in public employment for sexual orientation only.[17][18]

Hate crime law[edit]

State law does not address hate crimes based on gender identity or sexual orientation.[19] However, since the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act was signed into law in October 2009, the U.S. federal hate crime law has included crimes motivated by a victim's actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.

Gender identity and expression[edit]

The state will alter the legal gender of transgender people upon receipt of a court order.[20] Sex reassignment surgery is not required.

In 2018, a local school in Achille had to shut down for a few days due to safety concerns after a 12-year-old transgender student received death threats and threats of mutilation, whipping and castration by her classmate's parent.[21]

National Guard[edit]

Proposed legislation to institute in the Oklahoma National Guard a local version of "Don't ask, don't tell" (DADT), the federal policy that formerly prohibited gays and lesbians from serving openly in the U.S. military, was proposed in January 2012 and withdrawn in February.[22][23]

Following the U.S. Supreme Court decision in United States V. Windsor in June 2013 invalidating Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act,[24] the U.S. Department of Defense issued directives requiring state units of the National Guard to enroll the same-sex spouses of guard members in federal benefit programs. Guard officials in Oklahoma enrolled some same-sex couples until September 5, 2013, when Governor Fallin ordered an end to the practice.[25] Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on October 31 said he would insist on compliance.[26] On November 6, Fallin announced that members of the Oklahoma National Guard could apply for benefits for same-sex partners at federally owned ONG facilities, where most staffers are federal employees, and at federal military installations.[27] When DoD officials objected to that plan, Fallin ordered that all married couples, opposite-sex or same-sex, would be required to have benefits requests processed at those facilities.[28]

Public opinion[edit]

Recent polls have found that support for same-sex marriage and LGBT rights is increasing and opposition is decreasing.

A 2017 Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) poll found that 53% of Oklahomans supported same-sex marriage, while 36% were opposed. 11% were undecided. Additionally, 64% supported an anti-discrimination law covering sexual orientation and gender identity. 25% were against. The PRRI also found that 51% were against allowing public businesses to refuse to serve LGBT people due to religious beliefs, while 39% supported such religiously-based refusals.[29]

Summary table[edit]

Same-sex sexual activity legal Yes (Since 2003)
Equal age of consent Yes
Anti-discrimination laws in employment No/Yes (Protections in some cities only)
Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services No/Yes (Protections in Norman only)
Anti-discrimination laws in all other areas (incl. indirect discrimination, hate speech) No
Same-sex marriages Yes (Since 2014)
Single LGBT individuals may adopt Yes
Stepchild adoption by same-sex couples Yes (Since 2014)
Joint adoption by same-sex couples Yes (Since 2014)
Lesbians, gays and bisexuals allowed to serve openly in the military Yes (Since 2011)
Transgender people allowed to serve openly in the military Yes (Since 2018)
Conversion therapy banned on minors No
Right to change legal gender Yes
Access to IVF for lesbians Yes
MSMs allowed to donate blood Yes/No (1 year deferral period)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Rodriguez, Laura; Gatlin, Donald. "Approximately 62,000 LGBT Workers in Oklahoma Lack Statewide Protections against Ongoing Employment Discrimination". The Williams Institute, UCLA School of Law. Retrieved January 24, 2017.
  2. ^ "Oklahoma Sodomy Law". Human Rights Campaign. June 26, 2003. Retrieved November 2, 2013.
  3. ^ Legal Citation 539 U.S. 558 (2003) Retrieved July 18, 2017.
  4. ^ "Oklahoma Marriage/Relationship Recognition Law". March 16, 2007. Retrieved November 2, 2013.
  5. ^ CNN: Ballot Measures, accessed May 15, 2011
  6. ^ "US judge strikes down Oklahoma gay marriage ban as 'arbitrary, irrational' (+video)". January 14, 2014. Retrieved June 29, 2014.
  7. ^ Federal lawsuit renewed against Oklahoma's constitutional ban of same-sex marriage Accessed 11 December 2010
  8. ^ Associated Press (August 8, 2014). "Oklahoma same-sex marriages ruled constitutional for second time". The Guardian. Retrieved July 19, 2014.
  9. ^ Lowry, Lacie (October 6, 2014). "Same-Sex Marriages Legal, Underway In Oklahoma". Retrieved October 6, 2014.
  10. ^ Human Rights Campaign: Oklahoma Adoption Law Archived July 25, 2012, at the Wayback Machine, accessed May 15, 2011
  11. ^ Finstuen v. Crutcher (10th Cir. 2007), accessed July 11, 2011
  12. ^ Fortin, Jacey (May 12, 2018). "Oklahoma Passes Adoption Law That L.G.B.T. Groups Call Discriminatory". The New York Times.
  13. ^ Human Rights Campaign: Oklahoma Non-Discrimination Law Archived July 25, 2012, at the Wayback Machine, accessed May 15, 2011
  14. ^ Norman City Council affirms LGBT rights
  15. ^ "Municipal Equality Index" (PDF). Human Rights Campaign. Retrieved November 21, 2013.
  16. ^ MEI 2017: See Your City’s Score
  17. ^ Bryan, Emory (June 18, 2010). "Tulsa City Council Approves Sexual Orientation Policy; Rejects Immigration Ordinance". News on 6. Retrieved May 25, 2013.
  18. ^ Kimball, Michael (November 16, 2011). "Oklahoma City Council passes sexual orientation measure". The Oklahoman. Retrieved May 25, 2013.
  19. ^ "Oklahoma Hate Crimes Law". Human Rights Campaign. Retrieved May 15, 2011.
  20. ^ Oklahoma, National Center for Transgender Equality
  21. ^ "Transgender Girl, 12, Is Violently Threatened After Facebook Post by Classmate's Parent". The New York Times. August 15, 2018.
  22. ^ "Bill Would Reintroduce DADT to Oklahoma Guard". January 10, 2012. Retrieved February 22, 2012.
  23. ^ "DADT Bill Apparently Shelved in Oklahoma House". February 21, 2012. Retrieved February 22, 2012.
  24. ^ legal citation as 570 U.S.___ (2013)
  25. ^ "Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin tells National Guard to deny same-sex benefits". New York Daily News. September 18, 2013. Retrieved December 3, 2013.
  26. ^ Johnson, Chris (October 31, 2013). "Hagel to direct nat'l guards to offer same-sex benefits". Washington Blade. Retrieved December 3, 2013.
  27. ^ Allen, Silas (November 7, 2013). "Oklahoma National Guard will process same-sex spouse benefits at a few federal facilities". NewsOK. Retrieved December 3, 2013.
  28. ^ Mills, Russell (November 20, 2013). "Fallin: OK will no longer process benefits for National Guard couples". KRMG. Retrieved February 14, 2014.
  29. ^ PRRI: American Values Atlas 2017

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