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Protective measures


Amid debate, the Oklahoma City Council voted to add ‘sexual orientation’ to the city’s nondiscrimination policy.

Clifton Adcock November 23rd, 2011

During its Nov. 15 meeting, the Oklahoma City Council approved a measure that would prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation for city employees.

The measure faced strong opposition from some Oklahoma City-area churches, but also was praised by other area groups and individuals. Proponents and opponents filled the City Council chambers to capacity, waiting for their turn to speak on the issue.

The proposal, authored by Ward 2 Councilman Ed Shadid, passed 7-2, with Ward 7 Councilman Ronald “Skip” Kelly and Ward 3 Councilman Larry McAtee opposing.

The city’s policy already provided protection from discrimination in hiring and employment issues based on race, gender and political affiliation, although city staff told the council that they already allow for discrimination complaints for sexual orientation.

The resolution had been discussed at the council’s Oct. 25 meeting, but was tabled.

Shadid said such language has been added to a multitude of municipalities, counties, schools and businesses, both locally and across the country, and added that the measure would help bridge the divide between Oklahoma City and the homosexual community.

“By adding this, we affirm this seg ment of our population, and we go a long way toward healing,” Shadid said.

Shadid said the council was inundated with emails from people protesting addition of the language, most of which cited Scripture or religious reasons, but that airing the issue in public was the best route.

CASTING JUDGMENT
“I would propose that we let the city be the employer and let God be the judge. Let God sort this out later, and let us act objectively based on somebody’s job performance,” Shadid told the crowd.

“Jesus didn’t talk about homosexuality, but he certainly talked about poverty and the needs of people a great amount. As the social services budget comes before the council, I would hope that I would see 5 percent as many emails as I’ve seen on this. I would hope that I see the outpouring of maximum public participation, because that clearly was important to Jesus.”

Finally, Shadid warned of the dire consequences that can come about from not affirming rights of minorities, citing Nazi Germany’s persecution of homosexuals as the gateway to its persecution of other minorities.

“If you want to prevent such a scenario, you look at society and go out of your way to protect the most vulnerable, those that are the most likely to be discriminated against,” Shadid said. “Because if there are problems in the future with great fear and great external threats, that’s the door that the demagogues walk through. And you put every sandbag, every blockage, everything you can in front of that door to shut that door. You go out of your way to protect the rights of homosexuals, not just because they deserve it, but because they represent the domino that cannot be allowed to fall. 

right,  Center, Nathaniel Batchelder, director of The Peace House Oklahoma City, and Victor Gorin, former Gayly Oklahoman reporter

However, Kelly disagreed, saying that city employees already were protected under court rulings, that the implications of adding the language had not been vet ted fully, that the language really accomplished nothing, and that to say the city has discriminated against homosexuals in the past was misleading.

“I think this whole issue of misleading people is just unfair. … Don’t twist the facts and don’t twist the history. Because you don’t know nothing about slavery, and I don’t think you have read ‘Before the Mayflower’ as it relates to what really happened in America,” Kelly said.

‘FAR-REACHING CONSEQUENCES’
Prior to the meeting, the Rev. Paul Blair, pastor of Edmond’s Fairview Baptist Church and one of the founders of Reclaiming America for Christ, had urged people to call members of the council to voice opposition to the proposal. Addressing the Council, he said there has been no major problem with discrimination against homosexuals, and that adopting such language would have “far-reaching consequences.”

“What are you going to do when you pass these kind of policies, and all of a sudden, you’ve got Jim in accounting that decides he wishes to wear a miniskirt to work one day? Well, are you going to discriminate against him and send him home?” he said. “What are you going to do when Officer Jones decides he wishes to take a shower in the women’s locker room because he’s feeling like a woman that day?” Blair also addressed Ward 4 Councilman Pete White’s concern that most of the people emailing the council and opposing the measure are not residents of Oklahoma City.

“If you are that offended by citizens of other communities coming to Oklahoma City, then we can certainly shop at our own communities, as well,” Blair said. “However, your decisions in the greater Oklahoma City area will affect all of us.”

Right, Pastor Tom Vineyard

In addition, Windsor Hills Baptist Church pastor Tom Vineyard and several members of his Oklahoma City congregation attended the meeting to speak out against the measure. He read a list of statistics about rates of sexually transmitted diseases, intestinal parasites, murder and pedophilia among homosexuals.

“If God is the judge — and he is, he was and he will be — that’s something that needs to be taken into consideration in making this vote,” Vineyard said. “Folks, you’re making a decision that will bring down God’s judgment on our city if you vote in favor of this.”

PROTECT FROM PREJUDICE
Ryan Kiesel, executive director of the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, urged the passage of the measure, saying that without formal protections in place, a complaint on such an issue easily could be dismissed.

“The argument against it is essentially this: ‘Please, City Council, don’t take away the right of one city employee to discriminate against another city employee on a basis other than merit.’ That’s what they’re asking you to do,” Kiesel said. “We reject that proposition at the ACLU. We hope you reject that proposition, as well. It is a resolution that prejudices no one, except those who would be prejudicial.”

Oklahoma City resident James Cooper and Oklahoma Gazette contributor told a story of being in third grade, when he was beaten up by other children because of his sexuality.

“It was stated over and over and over again: ‘faggot,’ ‘gay,’” Cooper said. “We’ve come a long way, but today, we come here to turn a page on injustice. We are not the victims of history, but its makers, and we must stand up for what is right.”

Photo by Mark Hancock

 
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