Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

OKC Council Approves Sexual Orientation Measure

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

OKC Council Approves Sexual Orientation Measure

Article excerpt

Sexual orientation will now be protected in the employment practices of Oklahoma City, council members decided in a 7-2 vote Tuesday.

The discussion leading up to the final vote presented a colorful mosaic of opinions from the council and residents from around the metro area, touching on Jesus, Adolf Hitler, slavery and the Muslim community.

Ultimately, councilmen Larry McAtee and Skip Kelly held to their position that specifying sexual orientation in personnel matters was unnecessary in large part because discrimination has not proven to be a problem in Oklahoma City government. Other council members countered that including the two words, sexual orientation, in a laundry list of protected statuses was a matter of fairness that acknowledged the insidious nature of discrimination.

The city's personnel director said the change will not affect city employment practices or the discrimination complaint evaluation process.

Councilman Ed Shadid, who initially proposed amending the ordinance, said Tuesday the municipal government would be following the example of 170 municipalities and 130 counties nationwide, as well as major corporations including Chesapeake Energy, Devon Energy, Love's Travel Stops and Oklahoma Gas & Electric. In higher education, Oklahoma State University, Oklahoma City University and Oklahoma City Community College also have added the words to policies.

Early in the meeting, Shadid opened the door to discourse about biblical interpretation, racial discrimination, social justice and atrocities committed under Hitler in World War II. He urged those in the crowded council chamber to show as much interest in attending public meetings when the council is trying to budget social services.

Kelly, the only black member on the council, countered that as a descendant of slaves he was well aware of discrimination and that he did not appreciate preaching in council chambers. Before the issue was resolved, clergy from at least three churches spoke before the council, supporting and opposing the ordinance.

Kelly said he inferred from Shadid's comments, "basically that the city of Oklahoma City has been evil, that it has been wrong, that it has treated a population of people in an indifferent way, and that it is something that needs to be changed. And that is not true."

Councilman McAtee shared Kelly's position that there is no evidence to suggest that a discrimination problem even exists to be fixed. …

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