The things I give thanks for have not changed much over the past couple of decades, but I have added something very important this year: Last week’s City Council vote to include “sexual orientation” in Oklahoma City’s nondiscrimination policy.
I am not now — and probably never will be — employed by Oklahoma City. So why am I thankful for this minor addition to a seldom-considered policy?
Because it impacts people I care about. It also sends a powerful, far-reaching message that our fair city cares about everyone, that no person can face discrimination based simply on who they love. This message is perhaps most critical for the children of our city. It teaches them that discriminating against anyone is simply wrong.
It’s not just this important change in the city’s policy that excites me. I am also thankful for the process. The vote was taken only after considerable debate, and it was in that debate that we had the opportunity to educate the City Council and all of the citizens of Oklahoma City.
We discussed with individual councilors the importance of being able to work in an environment free of fear. We explained how such a policy improves job performance, satisfaction and services to all citizens. We also were able to demonstrate that gay employees and their families are every bit as important as all other families.
Within the process, we encountered much bigotry and even hatred disguised as Christian love. “Ministers” railed against the inclusion of sexual orientation and presented blatant lies camouflaged as “statistics.” They hauled in busloads of young people who cheered as God’s wrath was threatened if the measure passed.
In the end, the Oklahoma City Council saw the lies for what they were and held firm to the conviction that all people, regardless of their sexual orientation, are to be valued, appreciated and treated with equality.
Of course, I long for the day when a policy such as this will not require endless debate and hand-wringing. I look for the day when mere tolerance will be replaced with full acceptance. I work for the day when hate-preaching is replaced with love-teaching. But I accept that those will have to be on my Thanksgiving list another time.
This year, I have many things for which to give thanks. Among those is living in a city where equality for all people is becoming a reality.
Scott J. Hamilton is executive director of Cimarron Alliance, a nonprofit organization advocating for and educating on behalf of gay Oklahomans.