OKLAHOMA (KFSM) – The Oklahoma senator who proposed a bill prohibiting people from concealing their identities in public says his bill does not ban hooded sweatshirts, despite national media attention.
Sen. Don Barrington’s (R-Lawton) proposed amendment to a law already on the books would make it illegal for a person to “intentionally conceal his or her identity in a public place by means of a robe, mask or other disguise.”
The amendment would be added to an already-existing law that prohibits the wearing of a “mask, hood or covering” during the commission of a crime.
National news organizations such as The Huffington Post and Fox News picked up the story, stating an Oklahoma lawmaker’s proposal would ban hoodies in public.
“The word ‘hoodie’ is nowhere included in the legislation,” Barrington said, countering the reports. “The proposal is intended to protect law-abiding citizens, not limit their rights.”
Ryan Kiesel, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma, said his organization interprets the senator's proposal as potentially banning hooded sweatshirts. Kiesel said the term "other disguises" in the proposal could include hoodies, as "hoods" are already prohibited during the commission of a crime.
Kiesel said the lack of clarity in the proposal leaves it open to possible abuse by authorities.
"It's so vague," he said. "It's inviting speculation to what it really means."
Barrington said the proposed measure has several exemptions, including religious garments, Halloween outfits, and material meant to protect the wearer from the weather.
The law on the books penalizes anyone breaking the misdemeanor law by fining them between $50 and $500, or imprisoning them for up to a year, the law states.
“The bill is not designed to ban hoodies, but to prevent the wearing of masks or disguises in the commission of a crime,” Barrington said.
Kiesel said Barrington cannot show a need for the bill, which may criminalize First Amendment rights.
"It's an open invitation to over-policing," he said.