City Council members temporarily set aside a proposal by Oklahoma
City Ward 2 Councilman Ed Shadid to include sexual orientation in a
list of groups protected from employment discrimination Tuesday.
Shadid said that even if an employee's orientation is covered
under other laws - which may not actually be the case, contrary to
common assumption, he said - adding two words to an ordinance would
cause no harm and would actually help portray the city in a positive
Ward 7 Councilman Skip Kelly said it was unnecessary to make a
change because there have been no examples of such discrimination
that need to be addressed in Oklahoma City. He also called for
"empirical data" to back up the amendment.
The city's current ordinance on equal employment opportunity
lists only those classes already explicitly protected by federal and
state law, such as race, gender and ethnic origin. Discrimination
based on sexual orientation is not identified.
But a memo from City Counselor Kenneth Jordan to provide
additional background on Shadid's proposal says some jurisdictions
have determined that sexual orientation issues have a "degree of
protection" under the umbrella of gender or sex discrimination.
Shadid said it would be better to add a degree of certainty to
the city's policies than risk discrimination by implied silent
consent. Several Oklahoma communities have already introduced sexual
orientation protections into formal policy, including Perry, Noble,
Chickasha, Muskogee, Tulsa and McAlester.
"It's not just municipalities; it's business," he said. "Large
businesses across America are also recognizing that this is good
He cited a recent report by the nonprofit Human Rights Campaign
that found more than 300 large companies have included
nondiscrimination language in hiring policies to protect sexual
orientation. Shadid also pointed to a study by the Williams
Institute at the law school of the University of California in Los
Angeles that found workers who have been able to reveal their sexual
orientation are more productive. That study reported that even
heterosexual employees have reported seeing discriminatory action
against their homosexual colleagues.
Ward 3 Councilman Larry McAtee said that even though he supported
Shadid's position, he felt the need to be cautious in tackling a
legal issue that state legislators have decided to leave unchanged.
"And there's a considerable amount of research on who earns the
most money," McAtee said. "One side, the side in favor of Dr.
Shadid's approach, says that the LGBT group (lesbians, gays,
bisexuals and transgendered people) is financially disadvantaged. …