An Oklahoma state senator referred to the LGBTQ community as “filth” and added that his constituents would fight to keep them out of their “religious” and “moral” state.
Tom Woods, a 28-year-old Republican representing Senate District 4, appeared on a panel during the Feb. 23 Legislative Update, sponsored by the Tahlequah Area Chamber of Commerce.
Audience member Cathy Cott asked about the state legislature’s attempts to impede the rights of LGBTQ people, before addressing the Nex Benedict case.
Nex, a 16-year-old non-binary teenager who used they pronouns, tragically died following an attack by other students at his high school earlier this month.
Woods admitted that his “heart is touched” by the teenager’s death before continuing: “We are a Republican state – with a supermajority – in the House and Senate. I represent an electorate that does not want that filth in Oklahoma.
Tom Woods, a Republican representing Oklahoma’s Senate District 4 (seated on stage, second from right), referred to the LGBTQ community as “filth” during a legislative meeting on February 23.
The senator (pictured) described Oklahoma as a “religious” and “moral” state and said his constituents would fight to keep “that crap out.”
His comments drew scattered applause from the audience, while others appeared stunned by his statement.
The senator said, “We are a religious state and we are going to fight 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 allow people to live, work and profess the faith of their choice. We’re a red state and I’m going to vote for my district and I’m going to vote for my values, and we don’t want that in the state of Oklahoma.’
Woods’ response came only after Cott stood up and demanded an answer as to why the state legislature had “an obsession with LGBTQ Oklahomans…their personal lives and how they raise their children.”
She asked: ‘Is there a reason you are not responding about the 50 bills targeting the LGBTQ community in the state of Oklahoma? If you’re ashamed of those bills, they shouldn’t be there.’
State lawmakers have introduced 40 related bills for consideration this legislative session, several of which prohibit gender-confirming child care.
Fourteen bills aim to change school policies and cede more control to parents and school administrators.
Rep. David Hardin, also a Republican, was the first to answer Cott’s question.
“How you live your life personally, that’s between you and God,” Hardin said. “I have no judgment about it, but what happens in our public schools, I will fall back on my faith.”
Woods’ comments came in response to a question from an audience member, who referenced the death of nonbinary Oklahoma teen Nex Benedict earlier this month.
The Republican refused to back down from his stance after the meeting, reaffirming that he supported his constituents and that “we’re tired of having it shoved down our throats at every turn.”
He added that he wanted Oklahoma public school children “to have the right to grow up with that faith, and if they decide to change it, that’s fine.”
Regarding Benedict’s death, Hardin said he was not aware of the case but promised to investigate it.
Another member of the panel, Senator Blake Stephens, said that as an educator, he had sworn to educate and not “indoctrinate” students.
Woods did not back down from his stance after the forum.
“I support my constituents and, like I said, we are a Christian state and we are tired of having it shoved down our throats at every turn,” he said, adding that he supported the “values of the Republican Party.”
His comments came just over two weeks after Nex Benedict’s death. They died a day after a fight in a high school bathroom.
Police body camera video taken the day of the altercation shows the teen alert and conscious as she relays details of the attack to officers, which they said occurred after three girls were doused with water.
Benedict claimed that the girls were making fun of them and their friends, making fun of their style of dress and the way they laughed.
“So I went up there and poured water on them, and then the three of them came at me,” Benedict told an officer from a hospital bed.
‘They came towards me. They grabbed me by the hair. I held on to them. I threw one of them into a paper towel dispenser and then they took my legs off and threw me on the floor.’
The teen added that the girls began hitting them before they passed out.
Nex Benedict, 16, recounted details of the attack to officers from a hospital bed.
The teen died a day later after his mother reported shallow breathing and hands in a “posture.” Preliminary autopsy shows Benedicto’s death did not occur as a result of trauma
Officers explained that the court would view the altercation as a mutual fight if the teen pressed charges, as Benedict began the altercation by throwing water.
His mother called 911 the next day after Benedict returned home, saying the teen’s breathing was shallow and his the hands were in ‘posture’, referring to an involuntary movement indicative of abnormal brain activity.
Paramedics who responded to the family’s home performed CPR and took Benedict to the hospital, where he later died.
According to a preliminary autopsy, Benedict’s death does not appear to be a result of injuries sustained in the fight.
“While the investigation into the altercation continues, preliminary information from the medical examiner’s office is that a full autopsy was performed and indicated that the decedent did not die as a result of trauma,” the Owasso Police Department said in a statement.
The official autopsy report will be available later.
A candlelight vigil was held Friday night in Huntington Beach to commemorate Benedict’s life.