Executive Order in Oklahoma, Defining a Woman in Biological Terms, Could Be the Start of a Trend

Sooners are the third state to act on a measure called the ‘Women’s Bill of Rights,’ in a move that Freedom Oklahoma calls ‘transmisogynist.’

AP/Sue Ogrocki, file
Transgender-rights protesters at the Oklahoma Capitol on February 6, 2023. AP/Sue Ogrocki, file

One is an incident, two is a coincidence, and three is a trend. If that famous newspaper saying holds up, then Oklahoma could be the wave of the future in the battle over gender. That’s because of an executive order, signed last week by its Republican governor, defining a woman. 

Governor Stitt’s order requires state agencies to define “‘sex’ across state code and law to mean biological sex at birth,” according to the right-leaning advocacy group whose “Women’s Bill of Rights” inspired the Oklahoma order.

The signing of the order follows the failure of the state’s legislature to enact bills that contained provisions from the Women’s Bill of Rights.

The group backing the Women’s Bill of Rights, Independent Women’s Voice, describes itself as a supporter of “liberty and free markets” and “conservative, free market ideas” on topics like child care, education, Title IX, and women’s sports.

The organization, along with a feminist group that is critical of the transgender movement, the Women’s Liberation Front, says it developed the Women’s Bill of Rights in an effort to stop “activists,” who, the group contends, want to “separate sex from biology.”

The introduction to the Bill of Rights explains that “We know what a woman is, what a female is, and what a mother is. Our politicians and our laws should too.”

The group observes that “Common sex-based words,” like “‘female’, ‘male’, ‘man’, and ‘woman’” are found “thousands of times throughout state and federal law,” and that the words should be limited to their traditional, biology-based definitions.  

This marks a contrast with the transgender movement which contends that the “gender identity, gender expression or behavior” of some people “does not conform to that typically associated with the sex to which they were assigned at birth,” as the American Psychological Association explains.

“It’s time to fight back,” the Women’s Bill of Rights says. So far the online version of the rights bill has more than 25,000 signatures.

What makes it significant is that Oklahoma is the third state to act, if only by executive order, on the proposals in the Women’s Bill of Rights. Kansas and Montana have adopted legislation similar to the measures that failed in Oklahoma’s legislature. Not that the order isn’t controversial. Even in conservative Oklahoma, the measure has received criticism as an attack on transgender rights.

“We’re taking a stand against this out-of-control gender ideology that is eroding the very foundation of our society,” Mr. Stitt said at the signing.

The Oklahoma executive order allows agencies to provide single-sex environments where “biology, privacy, and personal dignity are implicated,” such as locker rooms, restrooms, rape crisis centers, correctional facilities, domestic violence shelters, and others.

“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,” Mr. Stitt said. 

“As long as I’m governor,” he added, “we will continue to protect women and ensure women-only spaces are reserved solely for biological women.”

An advisor for Independent Women’s Voice and former NCAA swimmer, Riley Gaines, has been an outspoken advocate for limiting the role of transgender athletes in women’s sports and attended the signing ceremony.

“Biological differences must be respected in the law to ensure female-only spaces have a future,” Ms. Gaines said. “It is sad that such basic truths must be spelled out to ensure equal protection, but I applaud Governor Stitt for taking decisive action today.”

Since competing against transgender swimmer Lia Thomas in 2022, Ms. Gaines has spoken about what she describes as the manipulation the female athletes experienced following concerns of sharing a locker room with transgender teammates.

“The amount of emotional blackmail they put us through to keep us silent, it was effective,” Ms. Gaines said on Fox News’ “The Faulkner Focus” after the signing. “They told us we would be murderers because we would be complicit in potential death.”

Freedom Oklahoma, an LGBTQ advocacy group, called the executive order “transmisogynist.” The executive director of the group, Nicole McAfee, said she is not surprised by the governor’s actions.

“This bill does not protect women, but instead opens the door for further civil rights violations that open all women to being harassed and targeted as they have their femininity assessed and judged by a public who feels increased permission to police gender,” Ms. McAfee said in a statement

An Oklahoma state representative, Mauree Turner, the first openly nonbinary person elected to the state legislature in 2020, criticized the governor for what she called silencing communities instead of focusing on real issues.

“I do wonder if Kevin Stitt ever gets tired of making a mockery, not only of the state, but also himself,” Ms. Turner wrote in a post on Twitter. “This separate, and unequal executive order signed here in Oklahoma couldn’t be further disconnected with what Oklahomans need.”

The New York Sun

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