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Hate crimes in Oklahoma

Posted at 4:22 PM, Jul 24, 2019

TULSA -- Members of the LGBTQ community are frustrated that the vandalism on the Dennis R. Neill Equality Center isn't considered a hate crime in Oklahoma.

"The outpouring of support has been so much more visible and prevalent than any can of spray paint," said Chris Brecht, Attorney and Vice President on the Board of Oklahomans for Equality.

The first thing staff members at the Equality Center saw Tuesday morning, was the word "abomination" spray painted on their brand new mural.

"To see someone degrade it in that way was immensely disheartening, very sad, kind of like a punch to the gut," said Brecht.

Jose Vega, Deputy Director of the Equality Center, says something negative happens at the center every year.

"Two years ago there was a shooting, that was the most terrifying one where 14 bullets came into the center at the front door by a drive by," said Vega.

According to Oklahoma law, sexual orientation is not included under hate crimes.

"About three years ago I was at Walgreen's wearing a rainbow shirt and soon as I got out I was targeted and beat up for it, that was not a hate crime," said Vega.

In this vandalism case, the criminal would be charged with a misdemeanor with the punishment of paying a thousand dollars, spending a year in county jail, or both.

"It’s essentially okay that you’ll get a slap on the wrist to basically spread hatred to wide spread number of people," said Brecht.

Local attorney Chris Brecht pushes for legislation to add sexual orientation under Oklahoma's hate crimes.

"We really need it to be a part of our state laws to really get all those protections and recognition that the federal government already extends," said Brecht.

Brecht says everyone has the right to report a crime, but adding 'hate crime' to a case like this, would send a message that these actions are not okay.

"It just does additional damage to attack already vulnerable people based on their vulnerabilities," said Brecht.

The Equality Center is hosting a fundraiser this weekend to replace their roof, and they're hopeful the vandalism will be covered by then.

If you know any information about the vandalism, contact Tulsa police.

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