The Oklahoma City Council voted 7-2 on Tuesday to add sexual orientation to the city's employment nondiscrimination policy after a debate that lasted more than half of the council meeting. Gay and bisexual Oklahoma City employees and job applicants now have explicit protection against discrimination in city offices. They already had de facto protection before the vote, city officials said. The measure was sponsored by Ward 2 Councilman Ed Shadid. Ward 3 Councilman Larry McAtee and Ward 7 Councilman Skip Kelly cast the dissenting votes. Lengthy debate About 100 people packed the council chamber well in advance of the 8:30 a.m. meeting. Usually only one or two dozen people come to watch or speak at the meetings, and those who come typically are concerned about an item on the agenda that affects their property. The number of speakers for and against the measure was about even, though it seemed the majority of the people in attendance were against the measure. Some speakers were applauded when they finished their comments, and the applause was loudest and longest for those who spoke against it. In general, speakers against the measure cited religion and opposition to adding a class not protected by federal or state law to the city's policy as their reasons. Speakers for the measure generally spoke about a desire for fairness and equality. Some of the speakers came from Oklahoma City's suburbs. The comments made by council members and those who signed up to speak reflected the emotional and polarizing nature of the debate. Shadid likened allowing discrimination against gay people to Adolf Hitler targeting groups for hate in Germany. Pastor Tom Vineyard of Windsor Hills Baptist Church cited a New York judge in saying more than half of murders in large cities are committed by gay people. Vineyard received the longest standing ovation of the day after his remarks. Council members weigh in Kelly said black Americans like him know the most about discrimination, contending the city had no need to add the wording to its policy because there have been few claims of discrimination based on sexual orientation in city offices. City staff has said only two such claims have been made in the last 12 years, and only one was substantiated. McAtee agreed with Kelly that there's no need for the policy in the city because there's not a track record of discrimination. Ward 5 Councilman David Greenwell expressed his reluctant support for the measure, saying he didn't think a vote was needed because of the relative lack of discrimination claims in the city, but that he didn't want to face criticism from people who didn't understand his views if he voted against it. Shadid cited companies like Chesapeake and Devon that include sexual orientation in their nondiscrimination policies, saying his instinct as a businessman is to provide equality and protection. Ward 4 Councilman Pete White said he thinks gay people face as much or more discrimination than any group in the U.S. today and that they deserve protection. Mayor Mick Cornett, Ward 6 Councilwoman Meg Salyer and Ward 8 Councilman Pat Ryan did not speak on the matter at length.
“I would propose that we let the city be the employer, and let God be the judge. Let God sort this out later, and let us act objectively based on somebody's job performance, and that's it.” — Ward 2 Councilman Ed Shadid “Oklahoma City has shown it is a thriving municipality with much to be thankful for. It would be foolish to jeopardize our success without a proven need for doing so.” — Ward 3 Councilman Larry McAtee “I appreciate everybody being here. ... I wish you'd be here on the day that we approved the social services budget to take care of the poor and the hungry and those people in Oklahoma City. I'd like to see this council (room) full of people saying, ‘I want you to spend more money on that.'” — Ward 4 Councilman Pete White “We respond to everybody. We respond to their heart attacks, we respond to their fires, we respond to their car wrecks. We deal with them on an equal basis. We don't have the luxury of saying, ‘We're not going to do that because we don't condone their lifestyle.'” — Ward 1 Councilman Gary Marrs “Why are we creating a special class of protection for someone's behavior? We're not talking about civil rights. This is not a gender, or this is not a race.” — Paul Blair, pastor of Fairview Baptist Church in Edmond “Women were not always considered equal. The various religious faiths were not always considered equal. The handicapped were not always considered equal. ... There is no rational reason to oppose the inclusion of sexual orientation in the policy's language.” — James A. Huff, Oklahoma City “I'm 82 years old. I'm the father of five children, three straights and two gays. And I love the gay children just as much as I do the straight children, and that's the way it's been in our family. We have no internal strife between people of different sexual orientation.” — Robert Lemon, Oklahoma City “This proposed law could be construed to help those that would look to animism, polygamy, transvestite ... or even later, if you want to get crazy, convicts, molesters, liars or any other behavior choice.” — Eric Rogers, Yukon “Many homosexuals openly admit that they are pedophiles because they cannot actually reproduce. They resort to recruiting children. ... Folks, you're making a decision that will bring down God's judgment on your city if you vote in favor of this.” — Tom Vineyard, pastor of Windsor Hills Baptist Church in Oklahoma City “To couch in Christian terms these so-called statistics, I'll call them what they are. They are lies.” — Scott Hamilton, pastor of Church of the Open Arms in Oklahoma City and executive director of Cimarron Alliance