Okla. Legislator Wants to Limit Nondiscrimination Laws
BY Trudy Ring
February 27 2012 3:00 PM ET
Oklahoma state representative Mike Reynolds has introduced a bill that would prevent municipalities from including sexual orientation or gender identity in nondiscrimination policies.
The House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to discuss the legislation today, The Norman Transcript reports. It would “limit nondiscrimination ordinances for municipal employees by restricting those protections to only those also provided for state employees under Oklahoma statute,” the paper reports.
State law does not cover discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, or political affiliation. Some cities have included these characteristics in antidiscrimination policies. Oklahoma City added sexual orientation to its policy in November, joining Tulsa and five other cities in the state. Norman’s ordinance covers political affiliation, and officials there are considering adding sexual orientation. The policies cover city workers only, not those employed in the private sector.
This is not the first time Reynolds has put forth antigay legislation. In January he introduced a bill that would reinstate the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy for Oklahoma National Guard troops. That was referred to the House Rules Committee February 20, effectively killing it. He has also said he wants to return Oklahoma to traditional Judeo-Christian values.
Some elected officials and activists were quick to speak out against his latest proposal. “I am surprised that Representative Reynolds is contradicting his conservative beliefs, which would not have government interfering on local decisions,” Norman City Council member Tom Kovach told the Transcript. “How a municipality makes decisions about its employee policy should be strictly up to local control.”
Ryan Kiesel, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma, issued a press release saying, “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.”
Efforts like Reynolds’s are nothing new. In 1992, Colorado voters approved Amendment 2, which outlawed local nondiscrimination ordinances banning antigay discrimination in the public or private sector; the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the law in 1996. Last year Tennessee passed legislation preventing municipalities from having antidiscrimination laws stricter than the state’s. The law is being challenged in court.