Rep. Mauree Turner (D - Oklahoma City)

Oklahoma House of Representatives

Non-binary Oklahoma representative censured, removed from all committees

Oklahoma House Republicans removed Rep. Mauree Turner (D-Oklahoma City) Tuesday from all committee assignments, alleging Turner “harbored a fugitive” in their office last week following an incident involving a Highway Patrol trooper and transgender people attending a bill hearing.

After the Feb. 28 House vote to restrict gender affirming medical care for minors, a transgender person allegedly threw water on a Republican representative and hit a trooper. While the trooper was arresting the individual, another transgender person attempted to prevent the arrest and grabbed the trooper’s hands, court documents allege. That individual then fled, and the person who allegedly threw water and hit an officer was arrested at the scene. 

House GOP members further allege the fleeing individual then took refuge in Turner’s office, and Turner refused to hand that person over to authorities. Turner is the only openly nonbinary representative in the legislative body and uses they/them pronouns.

According to that account, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol contacted Speaker of the House Charles McCall, who escorted the troopers back to Turner’s office to confirm the identity of the individual. The individual was eventually arrested Monday on a felony warrant for assault and battery of a police officer.

The vote to formally censure Turner fell on party lines. The motion included a provision that would repeal the censure if Turner issues a written public apology, though Turner said that wasn’t going to happen.

House Democrats dispute the GOP’s account of the situation, saying in a press release Turner did not impede the investigation or prevent officers from their duties. According to the release, Turner “cooperated fully and completely with the investigation.”

At the floor hearing, Turner defended themselves:

“I can see it now, that half of you won’t even look me in the eye. Some of you don’t even acknowledge my existence to this day,” Turner said. “But I’m telling you, censuring me on this floor, right, when we haven’t censured folks who have brought death threats to my office. Those of you who just write ‘kill’ on my bills and give them back. Or those of you who ask me what my genitalia is. But the fact that I dared to protect Oklahomans; that I provided a space for grace and love in the face of hate — I’m asking you, please don’t censure the people of House District 88.”

McCall fired back in a press release:

“The inappropriate, and potentially criminal, actions exhibited by this member of the House were deserving of censure, and the actions taken by the House today were both measured and just.”

House Minority Leader Cyndi Munson called the move to censure Turner a “historic display of inhumanity to silence anyone who is different from them.” At the hearing, Munson urged House Republicans to “tap into their humanity.”

“I have no idea, Mr. Speaker, if I’m going to convince you or the colleagues on the other side of the aisle to change their mind of what you’ve discussed in private meetings, but I am going to attempt to speak to your humanity,” Munson said. “Be a human being for one second. Not a state representative, not a Republican, not a Democrat, not a Christian, not this, not that — a human being. (…) You may not agree with everything that this person stands for, but is that enough to silence them?”