Last week, the city of Norman, Okla., became the first city in the state to pass an ordinance specifically protecting the LGBTQ community from discrimination.
The Norman City Council voted 8-1 to approve an ordinance prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, and marital status as a same-sex couple in housing, employment, and public accommodations.
The ordinance also extends existing age-discrimination protections to those age 40 or older, and clarifies and streamlines the duties of the city’s Human Rights Commission, which is tasked with investigating alleged complaints of discrimination, reports The Oklahoman.
“This is a momentous occasion for Norman’s LGBTQ population and a giant step forward for our movement for equality,” Allie Shinn, the director of Freedom Oklahoma, said in a statement. “This is a first for Oklahoma, but we know that there are many cities that will follow suit.”
Norman Mayor Breea Clark also praised the ordinance, saying: “I don’t think there is any downside to protecting your citizens from discrimination. I’m incredibly proud that it is the broadest civil rights ordinance in the state.”
Norman previously had a resolution stating its intent to overhaul its existing ordinance, but Clark said the city wanted to take its time to get the ordinance right and ensure that all communities were protected. Under the ordinance, the city will be able to enforce penalties against anyone that the Human Rights Commission finds in violation of the law.
Council member Bill Scanlon, the sole vote against the ordinance, expressed concerns that the new language of the ordinance would force employers to hire LGBTQ people, or else risk exposing themselves to a lawsuit.
“I am very concerned with the privacy issue,” Scanlon said, as reported by the OU Daily, the campus newspaper for the University of Oklahoma, which is the city’s top employer. “It’s a matter of principle. Privacy is a big deal for me.”
But Norman United, a group of churches and religious organizations allied with the LGBTQ community that lobbied for the ordinance’s passage, hailed the resolution as a positive development for the city.
“We are pleased that Norman has taken the initiative to modernize the language of our Human Rights Ordinance,” Norman United group member Charles Burnell told The Oklahoman. “There is always room for improvement, and Norman works hard to set an example as a leader of progressive change within the heart of our great state.”