March 12, 2010
Oklahoma Bill: State Law Enforcement Shall Deny Federal Agencies Access to Records
As amended and passed by the Oklahoma Senate SB1965 seeks to "opt-out" of the recently passed federal hate crimes legislation covering sexual minority and gender identity status (see our discussion of the Matthew Shepard Act here).
A portion of the relevant language of SB 1965 provides:
[state] law enforcement agencies shall deny access to law enforcement records to any federal agency when such request is made relating to a case handled and completed by a law enforcement agency of this state and the purpose is to attempt to investigate or prosecute the individual or individuals pursuant to 18 U.S.C. Section 245, except for records of any individuals convicted pursuant to Section 850 of Title 21 of the Oklahoma Statutes and for those records listed in subsection A of this section.
What does this mean? As succinctly expressed by Ricky Maranon in The Oklahoma Daily: "The bill would prohibit local and state law enforcement agencies from sharing information about hate crimes with federal authorities if the state of Oklahoma did not recognize the crime as a hate crime by its own statutes." This excellent student newspaper article also notes that Oklahoma does not recognize hate crimes on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity status.
Additionally, it seems that SB 1965 was drastically amended to include this language - - -compare the previous version of SB 1965; it concerned open meetings laws.
The bill was sponsored by State Sen. Steve Russell, R-Oklahoma City. Last November, Russell was quoted in The Oklahoma Daily here as expressing concern about the Matthew Shepard Act: “Sexual orientation is a very vague word that could be extended to extremes like necrophilia.”
Russell also declared that Oklahoma could opt out of the Matthew Shepard Act on the basis of the Tenth Amendment. With the approval of SB 1965, the Oklahoma Senate joins the continuing controversy about the ability of states to opt-out or "nullify" federal law, often concerning possible Congressional health care reform as we most recently discussed here.
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We had this debate before, when Southern states attempted to 'interpose' federal civil rights legislation ensuring that black children could attend the same schools as white children. It was as wrong then as it is now.
State legislatures have as much right to interpret federal laws as the U.S. Congress has to interpret state laws. Legislatures write laws; they do not interpret them.
Posted by: Jeffrey Ehlers | Mar 15, 2010 4:35:02 PM
Passing general hate crimes laws is not among the enumerated powers of the Congress.
Posted by: Michael Ejercito | Mar 18, 2010 9:49:08 AM