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Mauree Turner elected the first Muslim, non-binary lawmaker in Oklahoma
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Mauree Turner elected the first Muslim, non-binary lawmaker in Oklahoma


27-year-old crime justice advocate Mauree Turner has become the first queer, black Muslim who identifies as non-binary to have won a seat in Oklahoma state legislature. She is the first Muslim lawmaker in Oklahoma and the first non-binary person in entire US History. Turner won against Republican candidate Kelly Barlean with 71 per cent votes in Oklahoma's 88th District.

In an interview before the elections, she said, "I'm Black, Muslim, femme, queer, born and raised in Oklahoma — politics was the last thing in my crosshairs."

88th is a predominantly Democratic district in the largely Republican state of Oklahoma. However, the election of a Muslim is a surprise given that a local Muslim imam was denied the opportunity to serve as minister in the House in 2019. Though the district has 20% Latinx and 10% Black population, there had been no representation from either of the two communities. Turner also won in the Bible belt away from the liberal metropolises which usually are firsts in electing LGBTQ candidates.

"We ran a campaign based on a lot of things and deep community power is one of those and visibility. We ran a campaign based on the idea that we don't always need to have allies advocate for us but we can advocate for ourselves. That was a message a lot of people could get behind. Not just a message, but also an action," Turner said after her win.

Turner was raised by a single parent in Ardmore, with the other parent being imprisoned for most of her childhood. The key focus of her campaign was criminal justice reformation, higher minimum wage and affordable healthcare.

As per a 2018 analysis by Prison Policy initiative, for every lakh people, Oklahoma incarcerated 1079 in various facilities in 2016. This is higher than the US, the country with the highest number of incarcerations, which incarcerated 698 people for every lakh people.

A community organizer, Turner served as Regional Field Director at American Civil Liberties Union's Campaign for Smart Justice working for criminal justice, before running for elections.

Meanwhile, Oklahoma state minimum wage law has fixed basic minimum rate per hour at $7.25 which is the federal minimum wage rate while states like Columbia have it at $15.

"For a long time, we've had people legislating over our bodies who haven't had our shared lived experiences," Turner said.

A board member of Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Muslim civil rights and advocacy group, Turner remembers that it was harder coming out as Muslim than as queer growing up.

On winning the elections, Mauree said, "A lot of people don't know how much you risk putting your name on the ballot if you are not a white cis het man, and it was a lot of work to get here. I had to put faith in my community to catch me when I jumped, and they did."

"We are no longer fighting for a seat at the table. We're creating a whole new table where everybody eats," she added.

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TAGS:Mauree Turner Oklahoma Black Muslim US election 
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