Nov. 17th, 2018.
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – In the Oklahoma Intercollegiate Legislature, each session will bring new, rising delegates into the House of Representatives. When a person attends their very first session, they are a zero-star delegate—a freshman. For zero-star delegates like Sarah Bong, it is a daunting experience, especially when bringing a bill to the docket as well.
“Being a zero-star delegate is intimidating. I was terrified I would have a bad experience and have to completely reconsider a career in politics and government.”
Bong’s experience resonates with current zero-star delegates and past delegates.
“I had such bad cold feet the night before session that I considered just staying home.” Bong said.
However, through her perseverance, courage, and overall eagerness, representative Bong pushed past the nervous jitters and gained new skills in the process.
“I still felt intimidated when I got here, but I started to feel much more comfortable in the committees,” Bong said. “Now, I feel completely in my element and have been participating as much as I can. I feel much more confident as a public speaker now.”
With this newfound confidence, she presented her bill “Nondiscrimination” Act to the House of Representatives on November 17th, 2018.
“My bill expanded the definition of sex within employment nondiscrimination law to include sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as gender expression and presentation.” Bong said.
Protection for LGBTQ+ people or the perception thereof was a central focus to writing her bill.
“I wanted to ensure that employees could not be discriminated against in employment because they identify as or are perceived as LGBTQ,” Bong said. “I believe hiring and firing decisions should come based on merit, not because of who you are or who you love. Oklahoma is one of 30 states that have no protection for LGBTQ people.
While she cared for various personal reasons, she brought up startling facts that shook both the house and senate. Sarah Bong said:
“The 6th District Court of Appeals set a precedent that refused to allow religious exemptions as discrimination against gender identity and sexual orientation are inherently forms of sex discrimination. I wanted to keep that spirit, as an employer cannot fire or refuse to hire a woman based on religious freedom, even if their faith calls for the support of strict patriarchal roles.”
She did not possess any worries about her bill passing in the senate after presenting her case.
“I do believe that my bill with pass in Senate, because I believe the Senators will choose to do what is right for Oklahomans.” Bong said.
After her experience going through her first bil in the house and senate, Bong realized a lot of useful information that would have helped her before attending session. All delegates, regardless of their star count, should strive to be the very best that they can be.
“Participate as much as possible.” Bong said. “If you worry you’re too loud or that you’re speaking up too much, don’t. Be loud. Be who you are. Make yourself heard, for the good of Oklahoma.”
Sarah Bong, zero star representative of OU, had her first ever bill passed in both the house and senate on November 17th, 2018.