I guess it’s not surprising, but it’s still disappointing that Oklahoma City Councilman Ed Shadid’s proposal to add sexual orientation to the city’s anti-discrimination policy has met with what appears to be indifference and opposition from some council members.
Shadid, who represents Ward 2, introduced the measure at a city council meeting Tuesday. It was tabled until the Nov. 15 meeting. According to media reports, Ward 3 Councilman Larry McAtee and Ward 5 Councilman David Greenwell led the effort to defer the measure for more study.
At the meeting, Ward 7 Councilman Skip Kelly, according to reports, said he doesn’t think sexual orientation should be added the policy, which includes sex, race, religion and political affiliation, unless there’s evidence such discrimination exists in hiring or in city departments. This position obviously ignores the long-term discrimination faced by the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) community here and throughout the country.
Shadid and Ward 8 Councilman Pat Ryan supported the measure. Mayor Mick Cornett, who once touted his opposition to gay-themed children’s books in a 2006 political campaign, was not at the meeting Tuesday.
Although cultural attitudes have shifted and become more tolerant in recent years, the LGBT community still faces overt and subtle discrimination and even worse. NewsOK.com, for example, recently published a story outlining the life and suicide of a young, gay Norman man who took his life after attending a Norman city council meeting in which some residents apparently expressed hateful comments about the LGBT community. We are also not that far removed from the 1998 murder Matthew Shepard, a gay student at the University of Wyoming. Witnesses at his trial testified he was killed because of his sexual orientation.
There should be no hesitation or equivocation. Adding sexual orientation to the city’s anti-discrimination policy is an act of social justice, equality and basic pragmatics when it comes to the city’s hiring and management practices. If Oklahoma City leaders hope to one day shed the city’s pedestrian, narrow-minded image, they must decisively approve the measure.
Even Tulsa has approved an anti-discrimination policy that includes sexual orientation.
Unfortunately, Oklahoma City has a history of homophobia. In 2001, the city, under the leadership of former Mayor Kirk Humphreys, removed gay pride banners from light poles supposedly because of citizen complaints. This resulted in an antagonistic relationship between the city and the local LGBT community.
In his 2006 campaign for U.S. 5th District Congressional seat, Mayor Cornett, according to an older Okie Funk post, “placed an advertisement on radio in which he takes responsibility for reshelving non-sexual, gay-themed children’s books at local libraries.” The reshelving made the books inaccessible to children.
There’s also state Rep. Sally Kern, who represents a district in west Oklahoma City. In 2008, she claimed homosexuals are a greater threat to the country than terrorists.