Authored by Michael Clements via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),
Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt became the first U.S. governor to issue an executive order legally defining what constitutes a biological male and female sex in a move to preserve women’s rights on Aug. 1.
“I am taking decisive executive action to ensure the true definition of the word 'woman,' meaning a biological woman, is what guides the state as we reaffirm our commitment to ensuring the safety, dignity, and sanctity of women across Oklahoma,” a press release from Mr. Stitt’s office read.
“As long as I am governor, we will continue to protect women and ensure women-only spaces are reserved solely for biological women.”
Representatives of LGBT support groups in Oklahoma decried the move saying it would harm women’s rights instead of protecting them.
“We don’t feel that this legislation serves the totality of all Oklahomans,” Dorothy Ballard, executive director of Oklahomans for Equality, told The Epoch Times.
Mr. Stitt’s order contains language from two bills currently stalled in the legislature.
SB 408, sponsored by State Sen. Jessica Garvin, has passed the Senate and is waiting to be sent to the Oklahoma House of Representatives. HB 1449, sponsored by State Rep. Toni Hasenbeck, has cleared the House.
Neither made it to the full legislature before the end of the 2023 session.
They will likely be considered during the 2024 legislative session, Ms. Garvin told The Epoch Times. She said the Senate bill has bipartisan support, so she is optimistic it will be signed into law.
“The [Senate] bill was drafted originally by bipartisan groups working with the Independent Women’s Forum,” Ms. Garvin said.
Mr. Stitt’s office did not answer an email requesting comment.
Gov. Stitt’s order enacts language directly from the bills. The order defines a female as “a natural person . . . whose biological reproductive system is designed to produce ova.”
A male is defined as “a natural person . . . whose biological reproductive system is designed to fertilize the ova of a female.”
The order also defines mother, father, man, boy, woman, girl, sex, and natural person. The executive order requires all state agencies, including public schools, to use the listed definitions when determining an individual’s sex.
It also requires them to provide “governmental services in single-sex environments where biology, privacy, and personal dignity are implicated.”
“. . . prisons and other correctional facilities are directed to provide dedicated facilities for men and women respectively. Likewise, schools are directed to provide dedicated restrooms and locker room facilities for boys and girls, respectively,” the executive order reads.
Order Is Not Permanent
The executive order is in effect only during Mr. Stitt's time in office. The only way for the order to be permanent is to pass the wording as bills through the legislature.
Ms. Garvin said the bills had failed to reach the governor’s desk in time because the legislature was dealing with education reform and other pressing matters.
“There’s still a need to do something legislatively. We just ran out of time. We are ready to push forward,” Ms. Garvin said.
The bills will likely reemerge when the next legislative session begins on Feb. 5, 2024.
According to Ms. Garvin, the legislation will restore rights that are being stripped from biological women.
“Biological women are being told to sit down, shut up, scoot over, put a smile on our face and just deal with it,” she said.
Riley Gaines, a 12-time All-American swimmer for the University of Kentucky turned women’s rights activist, was on hand for the signing. She was quoted in Mr. Stitt’s press release lauding the order.
“Establishing common language by way of the Women’s Bill of Rights is a way of saying enough is enough: Oklahoman women deserve equal opportunity,” Ms. Gaines said.
Ms. Gaines took up the cause after being forced to compete against transgender-identifying swimmer Lia Thomas. Lia Thomas swam for the University of Pennsylvania men’s team as Will Thomas for three years before becoming the first openly transgender-identifying swimmer to win an NCAA women’s swimming title in 2022.
At the 2022 NCAA Women’s Swimming Championship, Ms. Gaines and Mr. Thomas reportedly tied for fifth place.
“Biological differences must be respected in the law to ensure female-only spaces have a future. It is sad that such basic truths must be spelled out to ensure equal protection,” Ms. Gaines is quoted in the press release.
Women's rights groups are not opposed to trans-identifying athletes competing in their own category or men's races.
However, not everyone sees the executive order as a step forward.
Nicole McAfee is the executive director of Freedom Oklahoma. A statement on the Freedom Oklahoma website attributed to Ms. McAfee denounced the order as a policy that will “uphold sex-based discrimination in Oklahoma.”
“It is a thinly-veiled attack on codifying discrimination against transgender women,” she said of the population that has adopted that identity. “We know that this executive order, like the legislation ... is not rooted in what is best for women or even clarity within the law, rather it is a blatant celebration of transmisogyny from the Governor’s office,” the statement reads.
She did not return a call seeking comment.
In the online statement, Ms. McAfee vows to stand up for LGBT people.
“While we won’t pretend to be surprised that the governor is engaging in yet another blatant attack on our community, we will continue to act with urgency towards the future where all 2SLGBTW+ people have the safety to thrive,” Ms. McAfee wrote.
Ms. Ballard agreed. She said the legislation and executive order are based on "outdated" ideas about what women are. She said the proposed law pigeonholes women into outdated categories that disregard those who identify as transgender women.
“I hope that moving forward, our governor and legislature would do better research into the science and impact of such laws on women,” she said.
Ms. Garvin denied that the bills were meant to target anyone. She reiterated that the purpose of the legislation is to protect the rights of biological women and girls.
“This policy was written by a bipartisan group of people who believe in protecting women and women’s rights,” she said. “I’m not going to go after particular groups of women for political purposes.”
Somerlyn Cothran is executive vice president of the Independent Women’s Forum and the Independent Women’s Voice. Her organization pushed for the legislation and the executive order when the bills stalled. She released a statement praising the order as essential to protect and preserve the rights of women and girls in Oklahoma.
“In Oklahoma, we protect women. Today, the definition of what a woman is is solidified for women-owned businesses like mine and for women entrepreneurs throughout the state. Without the governor’s order today, that distinction would soon cease to mean anything,” her statement reads.