By Patrick B. McGuigan
In an historic 7-2 vote, the Oklahoma City Council has approved changes to anti-discrimination language for government employees, joining county government in affording explicit employment protections for gays and lesbians.
Passage of the measure made Oklahoma City the fifth local government to add such language to anti-discrimination provisions.
Ward 2 Councilman Ed Shadid sponsored the measure and pressed for passage over the past month, discussing the issue with colleagues and advancing it through the process. In his remarks for his proposal, Councilman Shadid said the city should “be the employer, and let God be the judge.”
Cheering the results were gay community activists and leaders of the American Civil Liberties Union. Ryan Kiesel, president, hosted a victory celebration at ACLU headquarters in the Paseo District.
In debate, Councilmen Gary Marrs and Pete White advocated the measure. Marrs contended the city should respond to all requests for help and justice, not picking and choosing among residents. White said he wished crowds of advocates would come to meetings where budget cuts are discussed, as they showed up for this debate. About 100 people attended the meeting and a range of speakers spoke for or against the proposal.
Speaking against the proposal during deliberations was Councilman Larry McAtee, who said the measure was not necessary and that there was little evidence of discrimination against gay employees.
Councilman Skip Kelly said he did not believe protections for women and for racial and religious minorities needed to be extended.
Speaking passionately against the change adding “sexual orientation” to local protections was Pastor Tom Vineyard of Windsor Hills Baptist Church, who said during public discussion, “Folks, you are making a decision that will bring down God’s judgment if you vote in favor of this.” Paul Blair of Edmond’s Fairview Baptist Church also pressed against the issue, saying it was wrong to protect someone’s behavior with such a law.
Another voice against the proposition was Charlie Meadows, who said in a recent email, “There has been only one sexual discrimination complaint filed in the past 12 years in OKC government. May I declare that I don’t care if a homosexual works for the city, if that person is competent and doesn’t make an issue of sexual orientation to the point of a distraction in the workplace or perhaps worse.”
Kiesel said, “Opponents of the resolution made one ridiculous claim after another in their campaign of fear and ignorance.” Kiesel said after the vote, “Today we won, but the fight continues.” He promised the group would be “on the frontlines of that fight for equality.”
Others advocating the measure in public discussion were Bob Lemon, an 82-year-old civic leader. Lemon pointed to personal and familiar experiences to argue for the issue.
Scott Hamilton of the Cimarron Alliance, also a minister at Church of the Open Arms, also backed the proposal.
After the vote, Shadid said in a Facebook note, “Although emotionally taxing, the public discussion on this item is what healthy families do; and OKC is a family where we are going to have to learn about and accept each other and our varying viewpoints.”
Supporters have flooded Dr. Shadid with expressions of gratitude for his leadership on the issue.
Supporting the resolution were sponsor Shadid (Ward 2), Mayor Mick Cornett, Meg Salyer (Ward 6), White (Ward 4), Marrs (Ward 1), Pat Ryan (Ward 9) and David Greenwell (Ward 5). In opposition were Councilmen McAtee (Ward 3) and Kelly (Ward 7).
Dr. Shadid’s prescription: City Council passes measure protecting gay city employees
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