In a 9-0 vote, the Tulsa City Council voted Wednesday to amend the city's penal code to include sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression as protected classes for the purposes of the enforcement of hate crimes.
While the state of Oklahoma and federal government both have hate crimes statutes on the books, they do not cover those four classes.
Councilor Jeannie Cue asked city attorney Mark Swiney if such an ordinance would violate the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, providing equal protection, a concern she said she had heard from constituents.
"There have been people who have claimed that this hate crime law actually violates the principle of equal protection, and I want to tell you that from a legal point-of-view, it does not violate equal protection," Swiney said.
"If somebody punches me in the nose because I cut him off in traffic, that's a simple assault and battery. He can be prosecuted for assault and battery," Swiney said. "But if he punches me in the nose because of my race, or because of the church I go to, or because of my sexual identity, or my sexual expression, that assault and battery becomes far more serious.
"It's more insidious. It's more damnable. It's un-American."
Councilor Crista Patrick, the measure's sponsor, got emotional as she made the motion to approve.
"Thank you for considering this tonight, not only for our LGBTQ family, but for our entire family. The state may have a hate crime ordinance, in partiality, on the books, but the city of Tulsa has historically never had one on the books," Patrick said. "So this moment is not only for the LGBTQ community, but it is for women, it is for religion, it is for race, it is for national origin, it is for people with disabilities, so that we are standing together as a city saying that we do not tolerate hate against anyone.
"We stand together. We stand strong. We get through this together."
The ordinance amendment now proceeds to Mayor G.T. Bynum, who can sign it into law.