Vetoing OETA stokes unwarranted fear, and it's out of touch with Oklahomans

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State politicians conjuring up scary scenarios of kids being indoctrinated in forbidden activity reached a new low recently when Gov. Kevin Stitt vetoed funding for OETA. It may be part of a petty feud to punish his supermajority Republican Legislature for opposing his education proposals, but the move is also a nod to the rabid anti-LGBTQ movement in red states across the country.

Citing programs about inclusion as justification for his veto, Stitt said OETA “overly sexualizes our kids” and has had programming (featuring parents) that elevated LGBTQ voices.

A cadre of Republican politicians are turning over every stone to find imaginary enemies. When it’s not Muslims, it’s Black Lives Matter, critical race theory, teachers' unions described as “terrorist organizations” or immigrants at the border. All are tactics to distract from real issues and fire up their base.

Now, the newest scary target is OETA for its diverse programming.

OETA has always been a platform that broadcasts responsible shows and is a leader in airing difficult life topics in age-appropriate lessons for children. That the governor disapproves of a subject does not mean it shouldn’t be shown on a broadcast made possible with state funding.

What experts did he consult to determine there’s scientific proof of indoctrination? Like other members of his administration, Stitt is operating from a position based on personal feelings and convictions and inflaming unwarranted fear.

Going after public television destroys the last mainstay of truly diverse and educational TV programming in the state ― from programs that help kids develop critical thinking skills to the "Oklahoma News Report" and from the ancestry program "Finding Your Roots" to historical dramas on "Masterpiece Theatre."

More: OETA, nationally known as 'America’s most-watched PBS station,' reaches all 77 counties

Impactful PBS documentaries like Ken Burns' "The U.S. and the Holocaust" is a series today's politicians should digest for its lessons on the consequences of profiling people by race or sexual preference. To believe that public television is outdated is an elitist mindset, out of touch with tens of thousands of Oklahomans who watch OETA daily, including the grandparents who still watch "The Lawrence Welk Show." OETA beams a window to the world and state affairs to many homes across the state unable to access cable television.

Among Stitt's offending programs were the animated cartoons "Work it Out Wombats!" and "Clifford the Big Red Dog" because of episodes that featured gay couples or lesbian parents and "PBS NewsHour" where parents spoke about their transitioning children.

Apparently the goal now is to shut down every avenue that would allow the LGBTQ community to thrive. If parents of non-LGBTQ kids can advocate for their children, why should we expect less from those with gay or transgender kids? They want to give their children every opportunity to be healthy, happy and productive residents, too. But some Republican leaders would rather they remain silent about the challenges their LGBTQ children face. In Oklahoma, that’s aggravated by laws persecuting them and prosecuting those who help them.

These politicians are working really hard to make the LGBTQ community invisible. Every piece of legislation regarding the community is aimed at denying them the same privileges to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as any other community. No compassion is shown for families with LGBTQ adults or children, and certainly no legislation addresses the actual needs in that community.

There are real and pressing issues to solve regarding Oklahoma’s children. They’re being murdered far too often in communities across the state. Thousands are being assaulted in our neighborhoods. The Care Center sees kids from every jurisdiction in Oklahoma County. Stacy McNeiland, CEO and founder of ROAR for The Care Center, says staff there see abused kids from every socioeconomic group ― from poor neighborhoods, as well as wealthy homes.  Most do not come from LGBTQ families.

Want to protect Oklahoma’s kids? Fund prevention and advocacy programs like The Care Center and others across the state. Senate Bill 291, which would have allowed someone to file a protective order for a child experiencing abuse, should not have been vetoed. House Bill 1050 would help prevent human trafficking and predators from exploiting kids on the internet. That bill didn't even get a hearing this session.

Don’t penalize OETA for programs that talk about LGBTQ issues responsibly. Let OETA continue to be a source of education and quality entertainment. It has been a good steward of taxpayer dollars. LGBTQ viewers pay taxes, too. Let this community have the ability to chart a path for themselves and their families without the burden of state-sanctioned PTSD from willful lawmakers and officials.

Gov. Stitt may not see value in OETA, but reasonable legislators do, Republicans and Democrats alike. This is not a hardship year. The state coffers are full. It's a good time to override Stitt's veto and not eliminate OETA. It's an investment in community, and people from rural Oklahoma to the inner cities will appreciate it.

Clytie Bunyan
Clytie Bunyan

Clytie Bunyan is managing editor for diversity, community engagement & opinion.

This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: Let OETA continue to be a leader in inclusive education