OKLAHOMA CITY - Second Ward Councilman Ed Shadid said he wants the city to consider legalizing - or at least decriminalizing - prostitution.
"I know to this council it's going to seem far out there, but it's not," Shadid told the council at Tuesday's meeting. "I think we should stop criminalizing sexual behavior."
Shadid spoke during a discussion of a 'Disorderly House' ordinance, which expanded the definition of an "open lot disturbance violation" to include drugs and prostitution.
The ordinance passed, but Shadid said criminalizing prostitutes is not the way to solve the city's problems.
"I think these women, most, not all, are deserving of protections," he told NewsChannel 4. "We need to acknowledge [sexual behavior] is always going to happen and that there are safer ways and that these men and women deserve safer protections and don't need to be further impoverished by fines and jail terms."
Shadid, a surgeon, said he is worried about the spread of antibacterial-resistant and sexually-transmitted diseases, which he said move more quickly in sex workers. And, many of the offenders, he said, don't deserve the punishment that comes with the crime.
"I think you have to keep in mind what you want to use shame and impoverishment and imprisonment for," he said. "Do you want to use it for nonviolent, consensual activities, where perhaps in some cases it could be safer if it were regulated?"
"If you legalized it and regulated it, mostly women would be much more protected," he said. "Instead of going to some pimp, imagine having the Oklahoma City Police Department as protection. You would have much less sex trafficking and much less disease transmission."
The councilman's unexpected comments turned heads at the end of Tuesday's three-hour meeting.
"I was totally shocked and saddened," said Third Ward Councilman Larry McAtee. "I happen to be a Christian and believe in the Bible, and my interpretation clearly calls prostitution a sin and not something that we should see about legalizing."
First Ward Councilman James Greiner had never heard pro-prostitution arguments before but said it didn't take long for him to know where he stood.
"There's a difference between sexual freedom and legalizing someone getting paid to have sex with someone," Greiner said. "There's clearly a difference between those two."
There are no prostitution-legalization measures currently on the table. Shadid said he wanted to start the discussion.
"There are cities around the world that are addressing this issue, and we haven't even started to discuss it here," he said. "So, we can at least have a grown up conversation about it."