Oklahoma City remains without a municipal human rights commission. Members of the Central Oklahoma Humans Rights Alliance are trying to fill the gap left when the Oklahoma City Council defunded and disbanded the municipal human rights commission in 1996.
Nathaniel Batchelder, director of the Oklahoma City Peace House, stepped down as chairman of COHRA’s board of directors last year. He was succeeded by Emily Shurley, who served as chair for most of 2007. He said it was Shurley who organized COHRA.
“After the City Council disbanded the commission, Emily started contacting people saying we needed to do something,” he said.
Shurley stepped down recently as chair due to health reasons. She has been succeeded by James Stovall, founder of The Mediation Institute.
“The group is going strong,” Stovall said. “We have been involved with pressing for hate crimes legislation that includes language for sexual orientation and gender.”
COHRA board member Paul Thompson said the alliance was formed in the wake of the City Council’s decision because people “believed something needed to be done.”
“We needed a place for people to go to make complaints about human and civil rights violations,” he said.
COHRA maintains a 24-hour hotline (232-0217) to report cases of human rights violations. Thompson said most of the cases handled by COHRA are settled through mediation. “Greg Horton