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Oklahoma City Adds Housing Protections For LGBTQ Residents

Troy Stevenson, executive director of Freedom Oklahoma, speaks before the Oklahoma City Council before a council vote January 5, 2016.
Brent Fuchs
The Journal Record
Troy Stevenson, executive director of Freedom Oklahoma, speaks before the Oklahoma City Council before a council vote Tuesday.

The Oklahoma City Council added sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes in the city's fair housing ordinance at their meeting Tuesday.

Ward 2 Councilman Ed Shadid introduced the amendment, which passed with a 5 to 4 vote.

Ward 8 Councilman Mark Stonecipher voted against the measure. He said he doesn’t want to discriminate against anybody but he would like to hear further debate on the issue.

“I want to make sure that we are putting something on the book that doesn’t have a constitutional implication that may affect the right to contract, may affect freedom of religion, that may affect freedom of speech,” Stonecipher said.

Amanda McLain-Snipes urged council to pass the amendment, saying that in the past, she did not disclose the true nature of her relationship with her now-wife to her landlord.

“I was afraid,” McClain-Snipes said. “Afraid to come home to see changed locks. Afraid to be thrown out overnight. Afraid we would lose all our property. Afraid that we would lose everything we were working for.”

Oklahoma City disbanded its Human Rights Commission in 1996, so discrimination complaints would either go to the state attorney general’s office or the federal Housing and Urban Development Department.

Troy Stevenson with the LGBTQ advocacy group Freedom Oklahoma told the council that the amendment would provide some protection from discrimination.

“There is no recourse for an LGBT citizen of Oklahoma City who gets kicked out of their home or who gets denied a loan,” Stevenson said. “This would at least give them the legal authority, the legislative intent of this body, saying that Oklahoma City does not believe discrimination is okay.”

Norman passed similar protections last month, and Tulsa did so in April. Ward 5 Councilman David Greenwell said the city hasn't received many complaints that this type of discrimination is going on, The Journal Record's Brian Brus reports:

Greenwell also said he wants to protect business operators’ right to choose who they deal with. He cited a 2012 determination by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission that a bakery unlawfully discriminated against a gay couple by refusing to sell them a wedding cake. Councilman Pete White said that sentiment is akin to anti-black racism that preceded the Civil Rights movement. Greenwell disagreed. Responding to Councilwoman Meg Salyer’s question, Assistant City Attorney Cindy Richard said it could be argued that protections against discrimination for sexual orientation are already implied from the broader protection against sex discrimination.

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Jacob McCleland spent nine years as a reporter and host at public radio station KRCU in Cape Girardeau, Mo. His stories have appeared on NPR’s Morning Edition and All Things Considered, Here & Now, Harvest Public Media and PRI’s The World. Jacob has reported on floods, disappearing languages, crop duster pilots, anvil shooters, Manuel Noriega, mule jumps and more.
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