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As Epidemic Rages On, Oklahoma Republicans Pass Needlessly Stigmatizing HIV Law



Oklahoma's Republican Governor Kevin Stitt, source: YouTube screenshot

While the number of newly confirmed coronavirus cases in Oklahoma yo-yos between 70 to 100+ each day, the state’s Republican-controlled legislator made it a priority to pass a needlessly stigmatizing law requiring anyone handling human remains to be notified if a recently deceased person is HIV-positive.

Even though the bill is ostensibly meant to reduce possible infections, it’s not exactly clear what made this bill such a priority nearly 40 years after the start of the HIV epidemic. Nevertheless, Republican Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt signed House Bill 4041 into law on Thursday and the law will go into effect on November 1, 2020.

The bill seems all the more redundant, according to Allie Shinn, executive director of the LGBTQ advocacy group Freedom Oklahoma, because, as Shinn explains:

“There are already so many guidelines in place for the safety of people who are handling human bodies and human remains. They are adequate safety measures, and they are safety measures that are in place that also treat the body with respect.

What this law would do is not make anybody safer. What it would do is lead to incidents of discrimination and revive tired stereotypes and stigmas that will harm people living with HIV.”

Oklahoma has the 31st highest rate of HIV among all U.S. states. It’s also one of 34 U.S. states with laws criminalizing the sexual behavior of HIV positive people to ostensibly prevent deliberate transmission of the virus. However, such laws were drafted during the panic of the 1980s and ’90s HIV epidemic and are predominantly used to harass and target queer men of color.

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Mnuchin Begs Democrats to Wait Until After the Election to Disclose How Much the Secret Service Spends on Trump’s Travel



On Wednesday, the Washington Post reported that Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin is imploring Democrats to change draft legislation that would disclose how much the Secret Service spends securing President Donald Trump’s travel, so that the information is only made public after the presidential election.

The disclosure requirement is part of a broader bipartisan bill that would transfer control of the Secret Service back to the Treasury Department.

Originally founded in 1865 as an anti-counterfeiting agency and only later acquiring its modern role in presidential security detail, the Secret Service has historically operated as an arm of the Treasury Department, but in the wake of the 9/11 attacks was reorganized under the newly-created Department of Homeland Security.

Mnuchin himself has spearheaded the effort to move the Secret Service back to the Treasury Department, arguing that it would make the agency more effective — but he strongly opposes the Democratic efforts, led by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), to strengthen transparency.

Questions have swirled about the cost of Trump’s travel since he took office, spurred in large part by his frequent visits to his Mar-a-Lago country club in South Florida. According to the Government Accountability Office, Trump’s first four trips to Mar-a-Lago cost the Secret Service roughly $1.3 million each.

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