The United States and the state of Oklahoma have laws on the books prohibiting hate crimes.Tulsa’s city ordinances don’t mention the subject. But that could change Wednesday night when city councilors vote on a proposed ordinance amendment that would go beyond the state’s list of protected classes to include gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression
Gender identity is a person’s internal understanding of their gender. It can range anywhere along the gender spectrum and does not necessarily match the person’s assigned gender at birth.
Gender expression is how a person publicly expresses or presents their gender.
“Oklahoma has some protected classes covered but not all of them, and so this kind of mirrors and expands the state (statute) about hate crimes,” said Councilor Crista Patrick, who is sponsoring the measure.“It’s just to get official word on the books that the city of Tulsa doesn’t stand for hate and that you can have an additional charge of a misdemeanor hate crime.”
Persons convicted of violating the ordinance could be fined up to $1,000 or jailed for up to six months, or both.
The city prosecutes only misdemeanors. The misdemeanor crimes covered by the proposed hate crimes ordinance include but are not limited to assault and battery, vandalizing or destroying personal property, and the threat of such actions.
The proposed hate crimes ordinance also would cover the six protected classes named in the state’s hate crimes statute: race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin or disability.
“None of the state level (law) considers any LGBT issues; those are not included,” Patrick said. “Sex in general is not considered.”
The ordinance amendment would not only help ensure that all Tulsans feel safe and welcome in the community, Patrick said, but it also would help send that message to businesses and individuals considering a move to Tulsa.
“One of the first things many corporations do is look at your policies and things of that nature,” Patrick said. “If we are really going to be a world-class city that competes on a world-class level, we have to have those kinds of ordinances on the books to know that if people move here to work or to play or to live that they are going to be protected.”
Jose Emmanuel Vega, deputy director of Oklahomans for Equality, said he is proud of Tulsa for addressing the issue.“I am extremely excited and happy to see that my hometown is going to have this ordinance in place,” said Vega, a gay man who’s had his own first-hand experience with a hate crime.
He said he was assaulted outside a Walgreens in 2016 while wearing a rainbow T-shirt.
“They came forward to me, attacked me inside my car and broke my mirror, and then ran away, all while saying homophobic and racial slurs,” Vega said.“What was devastating was to hear that I was not protected (for sexual orientation) — that the only reason it was a hate crime was because of my race. I am more than that. … There needs to be consequences for this toxic hate.”
Kevin Canfield918email@example.comTwitter: @aWorldofKC
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