McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

State news

October 3, 2013

Ordinance targeting anti-discrimination defeated with standing ovation

ENID, Okla. — A vigorous 25-second ovation followed the dismissal of an ordinance designed to include sexual orientation as a protected class when hiring municipal employees Tuesday.

A majority of four commissioners is needed to pass ordinances. Only three voted in support.

Ward 6 Commissioner David Vanhooser, citing the commission’s previous lengthy discussion of the ordinance in a meeting last month, successfully limited further debate and public comment from the packed commission chamber.

The ordinance was significantly altered since the last meeting. Ward 3 Commissioner Ben Ezzell worked with City Attorney Andrea Chism to clarify the original language, which Ezzell said was outdated and confusing.

“The effect of the ordinance is really the same, but the language was simplified,” Ezzell said. “There was an outdated process, a pseudo-judicial process without any teeth that dated back to some point in the 1970s. It’s long, it’s convoluted, it’s confusing and it caused a lot of confusion in the community.”

The earlier version of the ordinance, introduced by Ezzell and Ward 5’s Tammy Wilson, caused some to believe the ordinance would have applied to virtually every employer within city limits.

“All we’re doing is saying that we don’t discriminate for city of Enid employment. That we recognize the classes protected by state and federal law,” Ezzell said. “And, as far as employment protection goes for city of Enid workers, we also recognize sexual orientation.”

The previous ordinance also included gender identity as a protected class, but this was stripped from the presentation.

Ezzell and Wilson were joined by Ward 1 Commissioner Ron Janzen in support of the ordinance. Voting against were Vanhooser, Mayor Bill Shewey, Ward 2 Commissioner Mike Stuber and Ward 4 Commissioner Rodney Timm.

After the meeting, Shewey declined to comment further on his opposition to the ordinance, saying the vote speaks for itself. Vanhooser said the outcome was a reflection of what the community wants. Both officials were absent from the meeting two weeks ago when commissioners tabled the ordinance.

After the vote, Ezzell said providing discrimination protections to gay and lesbian city workers would take baby steps.

“It’s going to happen,” he said. “Some day.”

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