City Of Tulsa Ordinance Seeking To Update, Add To Discrimination Policies Rejected

Supporters said the changes would help make Tulsa safe for everyone, but opponents argued the additional language would create problems for businesses.

Wednesday, September 20th 2023, 10:43 pm



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A proposed ordinance to update the City of Tulsa's anti-discrimination policies to include language including sexual orientation and gender expression did not pass.

The proposed ordinance needed five yes votes to pass but got only four.

Supporters said the changes would help make Tulsa safe for everyone, but opponents argued the additional language would create problems for businesses.

Next, the council can choose to move on from the proposal, a councilor who voted no could ask for it to be reconsidered at the next regular scheduled meeting, or the issue can be brought back 90 days later by any councilor.

What Was the Ordinance?

Council Chair Crista Patrick brought forth the ordinance last week for a vote, but it was tabled for further review after confusion and a lot of discussion.

There are already policies within the City of Tulsa that prevent discrimination based on qualifiers like race, religion, or sex, but Councilor Crista Patrick said not all the policies say the same thing.

"There were quite a few sections where age was left out, there's a section where religion was left out, the veterans have never been included, there were several sections where gender identity and sexual orientation were left out," said Patrick.

Her proposed ordinance would update the City's policies on equal housing, employment, and city contractors so they all include, among other things, sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression.

Patrick said adding these terms is still in line with federal equal employment opportunity rules. In 2021, President Biden issued an executive order in line with a 2020 Supreme Court decision that said discrimination because of sex covers gender identity and sexual orientation. 

"Unfortunately, there are people in the world that unless it specifically says, they don't think it applies, whereas the majority of citizens don't need explicit terms, there are some people that do," said Patrick. 

The ordinance is receiving pushback from the Association of Oklahoma General Contractors. Executive Director Bobby Stem said this isn't about LGBTQ rights. It's about keeping city contracts streamlined.

"We'll treat everybody equal. Let’s go build some roads and bridges; the more convoluted our contracts are, the more difficult they are to execute, the more challenges we have with the City of Tulsa, the less likely contractors are to come in here and compete," said Stem.

In Wednesday’s 2:30 Public Works Committee meeting, city council members spent almost an hour talking about gender expression. Some councilors brought up concerns about whether or not that language should be included in the changes.

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