Oklahoma Elects a Non-Binary Black Muslim Millennial to The State House

Mauree Turner election video YouTube.png
Image of Mauree Turner announcing their campaign from home. Screenshot taken from YouTube

27-year-old Mauree Turner unseated an incumbent and cruised to victory to become the first Muslim individual elected in Oklahoma.

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Originally published on 04 November 2020

Mauree Turner has defeated Kelly Barlean in the election for the Oklahoma House of Representatives seat tonight.

Turner, a 27-year-old non-binary activist, beat conservative Barlean, a retired attorney, with approximately 71 per cent of the vote.

Turner will represent the 88th District, which encompasses the heart of Oklahoma City. They are the first Muslim person elected in Sooner State history. They are also the first openly non-binary person ever elected to a state legislature in the United States, according to the LGBTQ Victory Fund.

“I’m grateful for HD88 granting me this opportunity… I’m ready to fight hard as hell,” they wrote in a tweet, noting their disappointment that a state-wide ballot measure, State Question 805, fell through. SQ805 would have prohibited non-violent felony convicts from receiving greater sentences when they are convicted of non-violent felonies again.

 

Criminal justice reform is a key issue in Turner’s life, not just their campaign – their father converted to Islam while in prison.

Turner currently works as a field director for the ACLU, having previous experience organising at the NAACP of Oklahoma, Freedom Oklahoma, and Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) Oklahoma. They were endorsed by the Victory Fund, the Run for Something organisation, Pete Buttigieg’s Win The Era, Emily’s List, Planned Parenthood, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Ilhan Omar, among other organisations and individuals.

Turner inherits a district that is 70 per cent white and 10 per cent Black, but they expect to be able to relate to the 37,000-plus constituents.

“Growing up as a Black Muslim-American Queer Womxn, in Oklahoma of all places, I shared the collective experience of not being seen or heard by the folks that make laws about our lives,” they said according to CAIR Oklahoma.

In June, Turner defeated incumbent Rep. Jason Dunnington in the Democratic primary. Dunnington held the seat for six years prior.

Before Dunnington, two out LGBTQ people sat in the 88th District seat. Al McAffrey served from 2007 to 2012 as the first gay person in the state’s legislature, and lesbian Kay Floyd, from 2012 to 2014.

“Of all the states to achieve a milestone political moment for non-binary people, few would have thought it would be Oklahoma, where there are so few LGBTQ elected officials,” Annise Parker, the President and CEO of the Victory Fund, said in a statement. “But Mauree ran a tireless campaign focused on the issues that matter to their district while also being authentic and open about who they are.

“Mauree is now a trailblazer for non-binary people and their courage to run openly will inspire more non-binary people to pursue careers in elected office.”

The Victory Fund says that a “historic number of genderqueer and non-binary people” – 17 – ran for office in 2020. Only four ran in elections in 2018.

Turner’s preferred pronouns are they, followed in preference by she.

Key platform issues for Turner included criminal justice reform, public education, increasing wages, “integrated healthcare” and “bridge building.”

Adapted from LGBTQ Nation

New vocabulary:

  • unseated – removed from power

  • incumbent – someone who has a particular official position at the moment

  • House of Representatives – one of the two chambers (= parts) of the parliaments of the United States

  • non-binary – (sometimes spelt “nonbinary”) a term people use to describe genders that don't fall into one of two categories, male or female (click here to learn more)

  • attorney – lawyer

  • 88th District – a legislative district within the Oklahoma House of Representatives

  • encompasses – includes

  • heart – centre

  • Sooner State – a nickname for Oklahoma

  • state legislature – the legislative body of any of the 50 U.S. states.

  • ballot measure – a piece of proposed legislation to be approved or rejected by voters. Ballot measures are also known as "propositions" or "questions".

  • state question – a piece of proposed legislation to be approved or rejected by voters. State questions are also known as "propositions" or "ballot measures".

  • prohibited – banned

  • felony – a serious crime

  • convicts – people found guilty of a crime and sentenced by a court

  • converted to Islam – changed religion to Islam/became a Muslim

  • field director – someone who handles political campaigns for one or more candidates

  • endorsed – publicly approved of

  • inherits – becomes responsible for

  • relate to – to understand someone’s situation or feelings

  • womxn – an alternative spelling of the word “woman”. It is used to show inclusion of trans, non-binary, womxn of colour, womxn with disabilities and other marginalised genders (click here to learn more)

  • of all places – the least expected place compared to anywhere else (you can also say “of all things”, “of all places”, “of all people” etc.) (click here to learn more)

  • prior – previously

  • tireless – non-stop and determined

  • trailblazer – an innovative person in a field. A pioneer

  • genderqueer – people who do not consider themselves male or female. It can mean someone who alternates between male and female, someone who identifies as a third gender, someone who identifies as genderfluid, androgynous, two-spirit, etc. (click here to learn more)

  • key platform issues – the main set of goals, which a political candidate supports in order to get support from the public

  • bridge building – improving relationships between people or groups

 

Questions:

Why do you think it is important to have a queer, non-binary Muslim person in the Oklahoma House of Representatives?

What difficulties might Turner face in the next few years?