Republican senator calls LGBT 'filth' after non-binary student's death
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An Oklahoma state senator referred to the LGBTQ community as ‘filth,’ adding 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 February 23 Legislative Update, sponsored by Tahlequah Area Chamber of Commerce.

Audience member Cathy Cott inquired about the state legislature’s attempts to impede the rights of LGBTQ people, before referring to the case of Nex Benedict.

Nex, a 16-year-old a nonbinary teen who used they/them pronouns, tragically died following an attack by other students at their high school earlier this month.

Woods conceded that his ‘heart goes out’ regarding the teen’s death before continuing: ‘We are a Republican state – supermajority – in the House and Senate. I represent a constituency that doesn’t 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 February 23 legislative meeting

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 February 23 legislative meeting

The senator (pictured) described Oklahoma as a 'religious' and 'moral' state and said his constituents would fight to keep 'that filth out'

The senator (pictured) described Oklahoma as a ‘religious’ and ‘moral’ state and said his constituents would fight to keep ‘that filth out’

His remarks drew scatted applause from the audience – while others appeared stunned at his utterance. 

The senator said: ‘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.

‘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.’

Woods’ response came only after Cott stood up and demanded an answer as to why the state legislature had ‘an obsession with the LGBTQ citizens of Oklahoma…their personal lives and how they raise their children.’

She asked: ‘Is there a reason why you won’t answer about the 50 bills targeting the LGBTQ community in the state of Oklahoma? If you are ashamed of those bills, they shouldn’t be there.’

State lawmakers have introduced 40 related bills for consideration in this legislative session, several of which outlaw gender-confirming care for minors.

Fourteen bills are aimed at changing school policies and ceding more control to parents and school administrators. 

Rep. David Hardin, a fellow 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 in that, but what goes through our public schools – I will fall back on my faith.’

Woods' remarks came in response to a question by an audience member, who referenced the death of nonbinary Oklahoma teen Nex Benedict earlier this month

Woods’ remarks came in response to a question by 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 constituency and 'we are tired of having that shoved down our throat at every turn'

The Republican refused to back down from his stance after the meeting, reaffirming that he supported his constituency and ‘we are tired of having that shoved down our throat at every turn’

He added that he wanted children in Oklahoma public schools to ‘have the right to grow up with that faith, and if they choose to change it, that’s fine.’ 

Regarding Benedict’s death, Hardin said he did not know of the case but promised to look into it. 

Another panel member, Sen. Blake Stephens, said that as an educator, he had taken an oath to educate and not ‘indoctrinate’ students.

Woods did not back down from his stance after the forum. 

‘I support my constituency, and like I said, we’re a Christian state, and we are tired of having that shoved down our throat at every turn,’ he said, adding that he stood behind the ‘Republican Party values.’

His remarks came just over two weeks after Nex Benedict’s death. They died one day after a fight in a high school bathroom.

Police bodycam video taken the day of the altercation shows the teen alert and conscious while relaying details of the attack to officers, which they said occurred after they sprayed three girls with water.

Benedict claimed the girls were picking on them and their friends, mocking their style of dress and the way they laughed.

‘And so I went up there and I poured water on them, and then all three of them came at me,’ Benedict told an officer from a hospital bed.

‘They came at me. They grabbed on my hair. I grabbed onto them. I threw one of them into a paper towel dispenser and then they got my legs out from under me and got me on the ground.’

The teen added that the girls started beating them before they blacked out.

Nex Benedict, 16,  relayed details of the attack to officers from a hospital bed

Nex Benedict, 16,  relayed details of the attack to officers from a hospital bed

The teen died one day later after their mother reported shallow breathing and 'posturing' hands. A preliminary autopsy shows that Benedict's death did not occur as a result of trauma

The teen died one day later after their mother reported shallow breathing and ‘posturing’ hands. A preliminary autopsy shows that Benedict’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 were to press charges, seeing as Benedict started the altercation by throwing water.

Their mother called 911 the following day after Benedict returned home, saying the teen’s breathing was shallow and their hands were ‘posturing,’ referring to an involuntary movement indicative of abnormal brain activity.

Paramedics responding to the family’s house performed CPR and rushed Benedict to the hospital, where they later died.

According to a preliminary autopsy, Benedict’s death does not appear to be the result of injuries suffered in the fight.

‘While the investigation continues into the altercation, preliminary information from the medical examiner’s office is that a complete 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 at a later date.

On Friday night, a candlelit vigil was held in Huntington Beach to commemorate Benedict’s life.

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