GOP lawmaker calls LGBTQ+ people “filth”

Oklahoma State Sen. Tom Woods (R)
Oklahoma State Sen. Tom Woods (R) Photo: Oklahoma State Senate

While speaking on a panel, Oklahoma state Sen. Tom Woods (R) referred to LGBTQ+ folks as “filth” after an audience member asked him about the hateful agenda being pushed by state lawmakers, which LGBTQ+ advocates believe led to the death of nonbinary teen Nex Benedict.

“We are a Republican state – supermajority – in the House and Senate. I represent a constituency that doesn’t want that filth in Oklahoma,” Woods told 64-year-old state resident Cathy Cott, who asked two questions regarding LGBTQ+ Oklahomans, according to the Tahlequah Daily Press.

First, Cott asked why Ryan Walters – the viciously anti-LGBTQ+ state superintendent – was calling teachers “terrorists” and “bullying” public schools.

“My second question is, why does the Legislature have such an obsession with the LGBTQ citizens of Oklahoma and what people do in their personal lives and how they raise their children?” Cott said.

The four GOP state lawmakers on the panel avoided the second question at first, but Cott pushed, asking, “Is there a reason why you won’t answer about the 50 bills targeting the LGBTQ community in the state of Oklahoma? If you are ashamed of those bills, they shouldn’t be there.”

That’s when she brought up 16-year-old Nex Benedict, a nonbinary teen in the state who died earlier this month after allegedly being physically assaulted by fellow students at their high school. Police in Oklahoma released preliminary findings stating that Benedict “did not die as a result of trauma,” but their family says these results are “troubling at best.”

In a joint statement, Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the ACLU of Oklahoma described Benedict’s death as “an inevitable result of the hateful rhetoric and discriminatory legislation targeting Oklahoma trans youth.”

At the panel, Woods reportedly said his “heart goes out” to Benedict but that he has to remain loyal to his constituents. He then called LGBTQ+ people “filth” for a second time.

“We are a religious state and we are going to fight it to keep that filth out of the state of Oklahoma because we are a Christian state – we are a moral state. We want to lower taxes and let people be able to live and work and go to the faith they choose. We are a Republican state and I’m going to vote my district, and I’m going to vote my values, and we don’t want that in the state of Oklahoma.”

Other lawmakers on the panel echoed equally hateful sentiments.

State Rep. David Hardin (R) claimed he had never heard of Nex Benedict. He called it “horrible” and said he’d look into it, but nevertheless emphasized that he will “fall back on my faith” when it comes to what is taught in public schools.

“How you live your life personally, that’s between you and God,” he said. “I have no judgment in that… What I want to make sure of is that our young children have the right to grow up with that faith, and if they choose to change it, that’s fine.”

Educator and state Sen. Blake “Cowboy” Stephens (R) said he took an oath not to “indoctrinate” students.

After the panel, Cott told the Oklahoma Voice she wasn’t shocked by the Woods’s comments.

“I have dealt with other state representatives and senators and been to lobby day and tried to advocate for the LGBTQ+ community when I can so I am used to it,” she said. “They haven’t said anything like this to me before where they describe citizens of the state as filth, but they let me know they just don’t care.”

According to the ACLU’s legislative tracker, Oklahoma legislators have proposed 54 anti-LGBTQ+ bills in the first two months of 2024 alone. The state has become an extreme danger zone for the rights of LGBTQ+ youth at the hands of State Superintendent Walters.

Walters has become known for his extremist agenda for Oklahoma schools. He wants to ban LGBTQ+ books but teach the Bible in public school history classes and has previously pushed the transphobic lie about schools providing litterboxes to students who identify as cats. 

He also referred to teachers’ unions as “terrorist organizations” and illegally tried to make rules banning LGBTQ+ books and transgender bathroom access in schools. He has appeared at events hosted by Moms for Liberty, a right-wing anti-LGBTQ+ “parent’s rights” group that has been called an extremist organization by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

In September, he announced an “ongoing partnership” with right-wing propaganda group PragerU, allowing the conservative nonprofit’s controversial videos to be shown in state classrooms.

And in January, Walters appointed hate influencer Chaya Raichik – who runs the social media account Libs of TikTok – to serve on the Oklahoma State Department of Education’s Library Media Advisory Committee. The committee decides what state public school students are allowed to read; Raichik doesn’t live in the state and has no experience working in education.

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