State Senator refers to LGBTQ+ ‘filth’ after being questioned about the death of 16 year old Nex Benedict

Meanwhile, the Rainbow Youth Coalition Crisis Center has seen a 500% increase in crisis calls after the death of the Tulsa High Schooler following an assault at school.

Nex Benedict

The Tahlequah Daily Press reports: “A state senator said [Tom Woods] during a public forum in Tahlequah that LGBTQ+ people are “filth,” and that he and his constituents don’t want them in “our state.” The panel at the Feb. 23 Legislative Update, sponsored by Tahlequah Area Chamber of Commerce, included State Rep. David Hardin, R-District 6; State Sen. Blake “Cowboy” Stephens, R-District 3; State Sen. Tom Woods, R-District 4; and State Sen. Dewayne Pemberton, R-District 9”

Cathy Cott asked a question of the panel during a public forum following the death of the high school sophomore. “. . . .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?”

“A 16-year-old died after being beaten in Owasso High School, what do you think of that?” Cott said. “They were targeted because of some of these bills and some of the things Ryan Walters [Superintendent] has said.” Cott is referring to 16-year-old Nex Benedict, a nonbinary student who died one day after a ‘physical altercation’ in a bathroom at Owasso High School.

(Benedict’s cause of death has not yet been determined. Owasso Police say preliminary autopsy reports indicate Benedict’s death was ‘not a result of trauma.’ A search warrant indicated investigators ‘suspect foul play involved.)

State Senator Woods: “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,” Woods said. “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.”

State Representative David Hardin answered, “How you live your life personally, that’s between you and God. I have no judgment in that, but what goes through our public schools – I will fall back on my faith,” Hardin said. “I want to make sure that at least the children in our public schools have that faith … 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.”

Time notes that the Rainbow Coalition crisis organization received 522 calls from Feb. 16 to Feb. 23, compared to the 87 it typically receives on a weekly basis, according to data shared with TIME. About 70% of calls mentioned the news out of Owasso as a reason for their distress. Even more, 85%, said they were facing bullying at school and/or on social media. 

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