By Bryan Dean
OKLAHOMA CITY —
A former Oklahoma Corporation Commission member and county commissioner who was the first openly gay elected official in Oklahoma County was attacked outside an Oklahoma City bar earlier this month by a man who shouted anti-gay slurs at him, according to a police report.
The incident came to light after the owner of the bar where the attack happened took out an advertisement in a local newspaper that went viral over social media because of its plea for tolerance and condemnation of discrimination.
Jim Roth, 44, served as District 1 Oklahoma County commissioner from 2003-07, when he was appointed to the Corporation Commission by former Gov. Brad Henry. He filled the unexpired term of Denise Bode, who had resigned the seat. He lost a bid to keep his job on the Corporation Commission when he was defeated in an election by Dana Murphy in 2008.
Greg Seal, the co-owner of Grandad’s Bar, 217 NW 23, placed the ad earlier this week. The ad, a letter headlined “Hate is not on tap at Grandad’s,” referenced a recent incident that went against the bar’s concept of being open and tolerant to all.
The ad quickly spread as Facebook and Twitter users posted images of it with support for its inclusive message.
A check of police records turned up an assault and battery report from April 6 that listed Roth as the victim.
According to the report, Roth and some friends were at the bar for a birthday dinner when a man started making anti-gay comments.
Roth and one of his friends at first ignored the comments but eventually decided to leave, he said.
They were followed out of the bar by the man who made the comments and two of his friends, who attacked them when they got outside, according to the report.
Roth told police the men yelled anti-gay comments as they punched him in the head and pushed him down.
Roth’s jeans were ripped, and he had a scrape on his right knee.
He also had red marks on his face.
Roth said he fought off his attackers, and they fled.
Police said they still are investigating the case.
The name of at least one of the accused men was given to police by the bar’s staff, according to the police report.
Both Roth and Seal said they had hoped the incident wouldn’t become a news story.
“I don’t think the actions of one bigot represent the attitude or feelings of all Oklahomans,” Roth said.
“I personally have met hundreds of thousands of Oklahomans through my time in public service. I’ve certainly met some who were closed-minded. But the great majority of people I have met are kindhearted and open-minded.”
Roth said he would hate for the incident to tarnish the reputation of Grandad’s. He and Seal, along with Seal’s wife, Jennifer, have been friends for 15 years and attend the same church, Roth said.
“I think the world of them,” Roth said.
“They are building a good establishment. There just happened to be a couple of bad apples.”
Greg Seal said he didn’t place the ad to promote his business. The bar’s website describes it as a tribute to Seal’s two grandfathers, who were role models to him who treated others with respect and acceptance.
Seal said the attack on Roth went against everything his grandfathers stood for.
“I put a lot of effort into this bar and into maintaining the spirit for which it was intended,” he said. “The impetus for the letter was to remind people that’s what we’re doing here.”
Seal said the response he’s gotten from customers and on social media has been stunning.
He said it encourages him that most people agree with the spirit of the bar’s inclusive and friendly atmosphere, and he hopes nothing like this will happen again.