The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

September 16, 2013

Discrimination ban is on table

By Dale Denwalt, Staff Writer
Enid News & Eagle

ENID, Okla. — City commissioners will vote today on whether to outlaw discrimination against sexual orientation and gender identity.

Under the proposal, employers in Enid could not fire, refuse to hire or otherwise discriminate against someone because of their sexual orientation. The ordinance also bans discrimination based on how someone perceives his or her own gender.

Enid City Commission meets in study session at 5 p.m. with the regular session beginning at 6:30 p.m. City commissioners Ben Ezzell and Tammy Wilson introduced the ordinance upon request from local advocates of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

According to a copy of the proposed changes, individuals would be protected from discrimination from employment agencies, labor organizations, training programs, in public accommodations and in buying a home. City Attorney Andrea Chism said Monday the ordinance, if passed, also would apply to virtually every business in Enid that has at least five employees.

Scott J. Hamilton, executive director of Cimarron Alliance, a statewide group that advocates for the LGBT community, said he helped members of Enid LGBT Coalition prepare statistics and language for the ordinance.

He said Enid could become the fifth municipality in Oklahoma to adopt these kinds of protections. He said Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Noble and Broken Arrow have adopted some kind of protections for the LGBT community. Norman has considered it for several years, he said, but still has yet to include sexual orientation in its non-discrimination clauses.

The state of Oklahoma, he believes, eventually will move into line with the rest of the country on the issue.

“It’s going to take time for that to happen,” he said. “It’s particularly important for municipalities that they move forward, even if the state is not ready to do so.”

Current state law does not provide employment or housing protections for the those who identify as LGBT.

Hamilton said he hopes as more cities consider new non-discrimination laws, the state will take notice.

“That’s a powerful statement to make to your citizens,” he said.

Current protections that exist in city law already account for age, race, color, religion, sex, national origin and handicap. There are existing exceptions.

For instance, an employer can make hiring choices based on bona fide qualifications necessary to complete the job. It also does not apply to employers who are immediate family members or those in domestic service.

Other exceptions include an allowance for those who wish to give preference to those protected classes. An original homeowner also would not be bound by the rule. Religious institutions also appear to be exempted in school and housing situations.



Other business

During the city commission meeting tonight, officials also will examine the site plan review ordinance introduced earlier this month. The ordinance would remove site plan oversight from public meetings and notification of neighbors.

Commissioners will consider appropriating more than $33,000 for modifications to electrical systems and lighting at Enid Event Center.

The city also could begin condemnation proceedings on land along Willow for its road widening project. A memo to commissioners states “some necessary properties remain unacquired despite generous offers by the city.”

Elsewhere on the agenda:

• Approval of collective bargaining agreements for firefighters and police officers.

• Agreement to provide construction management for infrastructure improvements near the proposed Northstar Agri Industries canola plant.

• Awarding a contract to NAPA Auto Parts to maintain a city equipment and parts warehouse.