HITCHCOCK, Okla. - An Oklahoma man has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit alleging several people, including a county sheriff, harassed and denied him and his son protection while living in a small rural Oklahoma town.
Randy Gamel, 59, alleges elements of homophobia and racism against him - a white, married gay man - and his adopted son - who is black - in the suit filed in Western District Court last week.
When he purchased an old home and moved to Hitchcock about a year ago with his son and husband, it was supposed to be the long-term plan. But the their home is now a burned-out shell and the family has moved three times within the last three months.
"I don’t want my son to be 15 and go, ‘Daddy, why didn’t you fight for me,'" Gamel said.
"But this battle, I’m going to fight."
Gamel alleges nine people, including Blaine County Sheriff Tony Almaguer, Blaine County Undersheriff David Robertson and seven Hitchcock residents, failed to protect or harassed and tried to force Gamel out of his position as town clerk because he and his husband are gay, and their son is black.
In the lawsuit, Gamel alleges several instances of harassment or physical threats made to him or his son, using racist or homophobic language. And when brought to the attention of law enforcement, Gamel says nothing was done.
Gamel claims a town trustee allegedly said, after finding out his son is black, "What's going to happen when your house burns down and we don't send the fire trucks?" according to the lawsuit.
Last May, Gamel says a woman threatened to grab his son - using a racial slur - rip his head off and defecate down his throat.
"It was obscene what she said. And when I go to the sheriff, 'Oh that`s just how they are. That`s freedom of speech,'" said Gamel.
In late May, the lawsuit claims a sign using homophobic language was placed in town, across from the post office.
"If I went down across from one of these post offices and put up a sign that said, 'Council member so-and-so is a f****** queer,' I'm pretty sure something would be done about that. But in Blaine County, that`s just freedom of speech."
Several days later, a suspicious fire destroyed his home. A fire that Gamel believes was deliberately set.
NewsChannel 4 attempted to contact the defendants, but couldn't or have not yet heard back. No criminal charges have been filed in state court. Gamel is seeking monetary damages in the suit.
"It sounds like something right out of a 1960s civil rights documentary," said Troy Stevenson, the executive director of Freedom Oklahoma, an LGBTQ advocacy group that is assisting Gamel in his case.
"I’ve been doing this for ten years and, surprisingly, you see less homophobia and racism in Oklahoma than you do in many places, I think. The allegations in this case are the most outrageous I’ve ever seen."