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Gay attorney gives up right to practice law in Oklahoma over deep-seated discrimination


Scott Cooper March 4th, 2010

Slaton Anthony has given up several things since deciding Oklahoma was not the place to be for a gay man. He gave up his home, marriage and military service. But Anthony also decided that practicing t...

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Slaton Anthony has given up several things since deciding Oklahoma was not the place to be for a gay man. He gave up his home, marriage and military service. But Anthony also decided that practicing the law in Oklahoma, something he had devoted years to, was another loss in the fight between his sexuality and home state.

"I just got to where I just couldn't deal with that anymore," Anthony said.

In a formal letter to the Oklahoma Bar Association, Anthony spells out in detail his dismay over the state's attitudes and laws concerning gays and lesbians. He now lives in Iowa where he has a license to practice law.

"I am taking this decision primarily based on the fact that Iowa prohibits discrimination against its citizens based on their sexual orientation and Oklahoma has codified that discrimination into its constitution and laws," Anthony wrote in the letter. "I am a gay man. I do not want to be part of a legal system that condones discrimination."

Anthony said he was married and had a child, but things changed when he was called for duty in Afghanistan as a member of the Oklahoma Army National Guard in 2003. He said his wife convinced him.

"While I was in Afghanistan, she outed me to myself," he said. "I never saw it as being gay; I saw it as a sexual issue. On a phone call, she told me, 'I know you like men.' When I came back, she opened up that can or worms, and neither of us knew where it was going to go."

The two separated in 2005, and Anthony had opened up a local law practice when he was called to duty again in New Orleans for Hurricane Katrina relief efforts.

He said running a law practice is nearly impossible when sent off on military missions, and he eventually had to close the practice down. But by that time, the 22-year veteran believed he could no longer work in an environment he considered hostile.

He made the decision to retire from the Army National Guard, where he worked as a JAG officer, after representing two soldiers who were trying to stay with their units despite questions regarding their sexuality. One soldier was forced to resign because he had come forward to his unit. The other soldier was accused of being gay but never confessed and therefore stayed in the ranks.

"That caused me to retire from the National Guard because I realized, 'I can't do this intellectually,' and that got me thinking, 'Why do you maintain your life in a state where, if you work for a courthouse the judge could fire you.'"

After retiring from the Guard, Anthony became a real estate and bankruptcy attorney.

He started looking for a place where he could practice his trade and feel safe doing it. In the end, he settled on Iowa. Over the last few years, the Hawkeye State has become one of the more gay-friendly states in the country. Iowa not only has laws which protect gay employees from discrimination and termination, but recently enacted new laws recognizing same-sex marriages.

Anthony moved north to Iowa in 2007. However, he kept his Oklahoma law license. But, he finally decided he could no longer keep it.

"It is with deep sadness that I have come to the reality that my native state is a state where inequality and discrimination is overtly written into its laws and I cannot support that in any way," Anthony wrote in his letter to the Oklahoma Bar Association.

He was more explicit in an interview with the Gazette.

"For me to resign means I'm never going home," he said. "My parents are there. My son and ex-wife live in Tulsa, so basically I've become career-less if I move back to Oklahoma.

"I am closing a door I am terrified to close. I can never go back to Oklahoma and practice law. But I don't want to support a state with my tax dollars (that) is going to discriminate against me. It's easy to do until you live in a state that doesn't."

Anthony currently works as a contract manager. The Oklahoma Bar Association declined requests for comments.

Anthony said he received a letter back from OBA that simply stated the organization's regret at Anthony's decision and how to reinstate if he should change his mind.

Anthony graduated from Gore High School and Northeastern State University before earning his law degree from the University of Oklahoma. He has remarried to a man in Iowa and is a member of the Mount Vernon, Iowa, City Council."Scott Cooper
 
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