Just when I kinda thought I’d correctly pigeonholed some if not most members of the Oklahoma City Council into one place or another, I’ll be darned if I didn’t have to eat my words at about 10:15 a.m. on Tuesday November 15, 2011, and I’m gladly eating them. And, you know, those words taste pretty good.
I figured that Ed Shadid’s pending motion to include sexual orientation in the list of protected employees, i.e., “The City of Oklahoma City will not discriminate against any applicant or employee because of race, color, creed, ethnic origin, religion, sex (to include sexual orientation), age, disability or political affiliation,” had a fair chance of passing ever since Pat Ryan said that he favored the motion when Shadid first brought it to the floor on October 25, 2011.
In my earlier post on October 19, I said, “One can make book on the odds that that if Ward 2 council member Ed Shadid moves approval of something, Ward 8 council member Patrick Ryan will oppose it.”
Well, I was dead wrong. Truth is, I would probably have said the same thing about Gary Marrs, but again I would have been dead wrong.
Yesterday, at 10:15, by a vote of 7-2 which included both Ryan and Marrs on the “aye” side, City Council adopted Shadid’s proposal and sexual orientation is now in the class of city employees who may not be discriminated against in hiring, firing, placement, and other workplace circumstances. The complete video of yesterday’s lengthy discussion is presented in this article, below.
Background. By way of background, at the October 18 Council meeting, Dr. Shadid wondered out loud why Oklahoma City didn’t have such approbations in place concerning its city employees and on October 19 at his Facebook page he announced that, “Next Tuesday I will introduce resolution prohibiting discrimination among 4300 city employees based on sexual orientation.”
He did. On October 25, after lengthy discussion his proposal was deferred until November 15. Following that, even the conservative Oklahman did not come out against the proposal but did say in its October 29 editorial that it was proper that the matter was receiving public attention and deliberation.
An October 25 Journal Record editorial by Ted Streuli was less reserved. Among other things, he said,
And in this week’s metaphor, Oklahoma City Councilman Ed Shadid is the flag atop the pole. Shadid suggested that Oklahoma City should add a clause to its employment policy that says the city won’t discriminate against someone based upon sexual orientation.
And as sure as the flag points north in a southerly wind, out came the hems, the haws and the unabashed bigotry. Posts on local news sites quickly revealed many wearing the cloak of ill-informed opinion over a suit of irrational hatred.
Yep. The flag went up and the windbags started blowing hard. That was an easy prediction.
In the council chamber, only Pat Ryan supported Shadid’s proposal. Meg Salyer, running the show in the mayor’s absence, remained neutral. Every other councilor squirmed like a sinner in the front pew.
David Greenwell and Larry McAtee said they wanted to study it more.
Study what, gentlemen? Whether it’s a good policy to allow discrimination in the city’s employment practices? Whether it’s OK to discriminate against this particular group but no other?
Yet the biggest head-scratch of the day came from Skip Kelly, who is black. He said the city didn’t need to make a change unless empirical data showed it should. We didn’t need empirical data to prove that some employers refuse to hire people with disabilities. Or those older than 40. Or Jews. Or Muslims. And surely Councilman Kelly doesn’t believe we needed empirical data to prove that people of color face discriminatory employment practices. Some truths are self-evident.
Here’s the test: If you can hear Bubba saying “I ain’t hirin’ no (insert slur here)” then you can bet your last Southern Cross lapel pin that members of the group referenced have been victims of discrimination.
Personally, I think that Mr. Streuli was over-broad when he said, “Every other councilor squirmed like a sinner in the front pew,” most notably concerning Pete White who would be expected to favor Shadid’s proposal and had voted against deferring the matter when the initial deferral vote was taken. But, to be sure, I was also scratching my head over Skip Kelly’s remarks at the October 25 City Council meeting.
The November 2, 2011, Oklahoma Gazette also carried a couple of relevant pieces. Clifton Adcock, who (in my opinion) has already distinguished himself as the preeminent journalist who covers local politics in the city, wrote a good summary of what occurred at the October 25 meeting (even though he did not report that Patrick Ryan said that he intended to vote for the proposal). In the same issue, part 1 of James Cooper’s lengthy article on the local gay community was published, and in the November 9 Gazette issue, part 2 was published as well. In part 2, Cooper wrote,
Victor Gorin, who used to write for the Gayly [Oklahoman] and still lives in OKC, recalled an encounter with law enforcement at Angles [a local pub frequented by the LGBT community].
Just moments after leaving the club late one night with a friend, Gorin (pictured) soon realized he was alone and his friend was no longer at his side.
“All of a sudden, I realized I was talking to myself,” he said. “(The police) had grabbed him and taken him off in the patrol car, and then I thought, ‘Victor, go home.'” Then, on Jan. 6, 1983, the tension between the police and the community reached a tipping point as the front door of Angles came crashing down.
“That was the last straw,” the owners told the Gayly [Oklahoman]. “That was the night that they took several people out and put them up against the patrol cars like they do when they frisk them, and took their night sticks between their legs and just beat the hell out of them, beat them on the back and everything else.”
Another Angles patron, Robert Bigger, allegedly encountered Van Schuyver after he left. Bigger claimed he was forced from his car before having his face smashed into the vehicle, according to The Daily Oklahoman.
Bigger eventually filed a federal lawsuit against Oklahoma City and Van Schuyver. According to The Daily Oklahoman, Van Schuyver suggested that the chief of police at the time “specifically advised” him to treat the gay community on N.W. 39th Street with such force.
Meanwhile, in February of that year, Cotton-Eyed Joes Inc. filed a federal lawsuit against Oklahoma City.
The next month, Gravel reportedly hired former Oklahoma City Councilman Eric Groves, the same lawyer representing Angles, and blamed the mayor and the OKC police chief for their inability to stop police violence and harassment on N.W. 39th Street.
Later that year, rather than face a prolonged, expensive legal battle, the original Angles owners offered to settle out of court and drop the lawsuit, but only if Oklahoma City made significant changes.
The city obliged. On Sept. 13, 1983, the city reportedly settled the lawsuit for $1 in damages and agreed to pay approximately $28,000 in legal fees to the Angles owners.
“The City Council did the right thing,” Groves told The Daily Oklahoman. “This was a good solution to a tough problem.”
Moreover, the city agreed to provide gay-awareness training for its officers henceforth and obey a permanent injunction against the Oklahoma City police that prevented them from coming onto N.W. 39th Street and harassing the gay community. The City Council settled with Gravel, as well, and agreed to pay him $25,000.
Van Schuyver reportedly resigned before a police disciplinary review board had a chance to make its recommendation. The city agreed to pay Bigger $15,000 to drop his suit.
Mr. Cooper was one of the eleven citizens to speak at the November 15 City Council meeting. His video particularly appears below.
The Videos. I’ve broken the November 15 discussion before City Council into segments so that you can look at either the parts you want or the whole of the discussion. Speakers are shown in the same sequence as they spoke during the meeting. As for citizen comments, I’ve selected a few which I considered deserving of individual treatment, presented immediately following the general citizen comments video. Other citizen opponent comments I’ve not singled out since none added anything substantive to the discussion presented here. That said, all 11 citizen speeches are in the main citizen video below.
|Ed Shadid (11:09)
||Skip Kelly #1 of 3 (6:42)
|Larry McAtee (6:16)
||Pete White (4:36)
|Kelly #2 of 3 (4:55)
||All 11 Citizens (37:35)
|Opponent Paul Blair (2:35)
||Proponent Muneer Awad (2:59)
|Opponent Tom Vineyard (3:59)
||Proponent Robert Lemon (4:28)
|Proponent James Cooper (3:37)
||Proponent Ryan Kiesel (2:48)
|Proponent Nathaniel Batchelder (2:38)
||Proponent Scott Hamilton (3:20)
||Skip Kelly #3 of 3 (1:03)
|Gary Marrs & The Vote (5:12)
||The Final Vote (0:43)
- I am proudest of …
- Ed Shadid for having the ideals and courage to advocate those ideals so that others could follow, and, as well, whether they would or not. Shadid has already demonstrated his willingness to stand alone, if need be.
- Pete White for his unwavering support for the rights of all citizens … with Shadid on the Council, he now has an ally in advocacy of and for the common men and women in our city.
- Patrick Ryan for setting aside his differences with Ed Shadid and announcing on October 25 that he wanted to be present to cast his vote for the resolution and for him doing so on November 15.
- Gary Marrs for having the gumption to search his conscience and speak and vote in favor of Shadid’s resolution on November 15. Not even Ryan spoke on November 15, but Marrs did … when he didn’t have to.
- Deserving Of Credit But No Cigars. Although all three voted for the resolution, only one spoke during either the October 25 or November 15 City Council Session.
- David Greenwell softly indicated his approval on October 25 but spoke ambiguously on November 15. Perhaps, one day, he will find more willingness to assume less of a wallflower and more of a leadership mantle, but in this matter he did not assume such a role.
- Mick Cornett voted affirmatively but he also chose not to speak at a time that leadership counted. For his vocal silence, he gets a “no cigar” vote from me.
- Meg Salyer spoke at neither session but did vote in favor of the resolution. But, for her vocal silence, she also gets a “no cigar” vote from me.
- Council Members Who Disappointed. Two fall into this category.
- Larry McAtee. Ward 3’s City Council member presented no surprise in his negative vote. That’s just who Larry is.
- Skip Kelly. Ward 7’s Skip Kelly’s negative vote is not only one of my most surprising revelations, it is also my greatest disappointment. Skip, as an Afro-American, should be the 1st in line of the Council members to understand and grasp the notion that, in America, all minorities should be protected against the majority and citizen speakers like Paul Blair and Tom Vineyard. But, by his persistent advocacy on both October 25 and then again three times on November 15 and his vote on the latter day, he of all City Council members represents my personal greatest disappointment.
I regard Skip as a friend. I know that he favors civil liberties being extended to all. Why he would vote as he did, and vocally objected as he did, on October 25 and again on November 15 remains beyond my understanding. One member at OkcTalk opines that he was pandering to his political base, but I truly hope that Skip is above that sort of thing when human liberties are involved. It is my hope that as time passes he will come to see, and have, a better day, and come to grasp that not only Afro-Americans should have protection under the law.