February 24, 2012 – Tulsa, Oklahoma – Today leaders from prominent equality groups joined together in condemning proposed legislation that would strike down nondiscrimination policies for municipal employees that include classes not protected under state employee nondiscrimination policies. The state’s nondiscrimination policy does not encompass marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or political affiliation.
Introduced by Mike Reynolds (R-Oklahoma City), HB 2245 is scheduled to be heard by the House Judiciary Committee on Monday, February 27. If passed, HB 2245 would imperil municipal employee protections in Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Del City, Miami, McAlester, Altus, and Vinita – and would restrict all municipal policies in the future. The ACLU of Oklahoma, The Equality Network, Cimarron Alliance, Oklahomans for Equality, PFLAG, and Mothers of Many (MOM) have all taken a strong stand against this harmful measure.
“It is bad enough when short-sighted politicians and demagogues stand in the way of progress, but it is even more offensive when those same forces conspire to take away civil rights that have already been won,” said Ryan Kiesel, executive director of the ACLU of Oklahoma.
Laura Belmonte, chair of The Equality Network, echoed Kiesel’s sentiments by asserting, “With the furor at the State Capitol about perceived federal overreach, HB 2245 is stunningly hypocritical. Rep. Reynolds apparently thinks it is acceptable for the state government to run roughshod over local governments. Shouldn’t our cities, towns, and counties have the right to determine whom they wish to employ and to ensure the most productive, welcoming workplaces possible?”
Toby Jenkins, executive director of Tulsa-based Oklahomans for Equality, said, “Workplace discrimination must be addressed in proactive and preemptive employment policies. By providing nondiscrimination policies that include sexual orientation and gender identity and expression employers create a welcoming atmosphere. Oklahoma municipalities and counties are following successful companies’ example. Our legislators should not stifle steps that make our cities competitive. They should follow the example of the private sector and expand our state’s non-discrimination policy.”
“This bill is a desperate attempt to foster bigotry in a state that is becoming less tolerant of discrimination. Worse, it sends a powerfully negative message to corporations considering moving jobs to Oklahoma. Every single Fortune 100 company has a far more inclusive nondiscrimination policy than does the State of Oklahoma. Why would a company that values its employees subject them to the kind of bigotry expressed in this bill? Fairness is far more an Oklahoma value than abject hate. This proposed legislation hurts far more than Oklahoma’s 365,000 gay citizens; it has a negative impact on the future of our state,” said Scott J. Hamilton, executive director of Oklahoma City-based Cimarron Alliance.
Nancy McDonald of PFLAG Tulsa added, “It is extremely important that Oklahoma address the challenges of our state’s economy and have the ability to attract companies that will utilize our workforce, as well as bring new workers to Oklahoma. One of the factors that companies consider is whether or not our municipalities and counties have proactive and preemptive employment practices This must include nondiscrimination policies that include sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. By doing so, a welcoming environment is created and all employees are empowered to contribute to the welfare of their company, their city, and their state. Let us move Oklahoma forward!”
Cindy Cason of Norman-based Mothers of Many (MOM) concluded by stating: “MOM believes we all share responsibility for one another in matters of social justice. We call on our legislature to stop the flow of talent leaving our state because of legislation such as HB 2245. We believe our state and city government leaders need to make a clear statement that Oklahoma is committed to creating a workplace free of discrimination. State and city laws, policy and training must specify a clear, comprehensive approach to managing diversity, practicing equal employment, and engaging in affirmative efforts to create and maintain an environment that supports and encourages the contributions of all employees.”
All of the groups have vowed to fight HB 2245.
Executive Director, ACLU-Oklahoma
Chair, The Equality Network (TEN)
Executive Director, Oklahomans for Equality
Executive Director, Cimarron Alliance
Past President, PFLAG National Board of Directors
Mothers of Many (MOM), Norman