A bill proposed in the Oklahoma State legislature’s first session of 2015 could make wearing a hooded sweatshirt in public punishable by a $500 fine. The bill as it stands would ban individuals from deliberately concealing “his or her identity in a public place by means of a robe, mask, or other disguise,” even if he or she were not involved in a crime.
The bill, authored by GOP Senator Don Barrington, makes exemptions like Halloween celebrations, protection from the elements, health and safety purposes, and amusement, including allowances for “minstrel groups.”
Nevertheless, Oklahoma residents have voiced concerns that the wording of the bill is still too broad. Some fear it could be easily misconstrued to ban outright the wearing of hoodies, which became key symbol of protests following the fatal police shooting of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin in Florida in 2012.
However, Sen. Barrington argues that the proposals would deter violent robberies and protect local business owners.
“The intent of Senate Bill 13 is to make businesses and public places safer by ensuring that people cannot conceal their identities for the purpose of crime or harassment,” the senator told local news channel KFOR.
“Similar language has been in Oklahoma statutes for decades, and numerous other states have similar laws in place. Oklahoma businesses want state leaders to be responsive to their safety concerns, and this is one way we can provide protection,” he added.
For Oklahoma City attorney James Siderias, however, the bill is “very problematic.”
“I think this is a violation of an individual’s right to chose what they want to wear, as long as it doesn’t violate the realm of public decency and moral values,” Siderias told KFOR.
The channel noted that the bill, if passed, would make it illegal for Kevin Durant, star of local NBA side Oklahoma City Thunder, to wear his trademark hoodies outside the stadium.