OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The Oklahoma City Council approved a measure Tuesday that will re-establish the City’s Human Rights Commission, following two years of task force work.

The Human Rights Commission was was previously established in 1980, but abolished back in 1996 because it supported rights for the LGBTQ community; however, racial unrest and demonstrations in 2020 renewed a call for the city to address discrimination of all forms.

In his 2022 State of the City address, Mayor David Holt said the commission mirrors efforts in other large cities.

“Making sure that everyone is part of our story is critical as we continue to grow,” he stated in his address. “Top 20 cities are diverse cities.  We are now a city that includes people from every life experience and every corner of the world.”

OKC’s council narrowly voted to approve the Commission with a vote of 5 to 4.

However, the vote did not come without fiery public comment.  

“Oklahoma City is not Detroit, L.A., San Francisco, Seattle, Portland or Chicago. Why are we trying to create and follow other liberal cities,” said Carol Hefner.

“It seems we’ve had one in the past and I see no reason to resurrect it now, [and] I do want to mention I think it would ultimately be divisive,” said George Teague, also in attendance at Tuesday’s meeting.

The Human Rights Commission will be responsible for addressing “alleged harm to people who have been discriminated against because of their race, color, religion, creed, sex, gender, national origin, age, familial status, genetic information or disability related to employment, housing and public accommodations under the Oklahoma Anti-Discrimination Law”. 

“Oklahomans have a reputation of coming together during disasters and hard times; economic status and race are not an issue,” added Margaritt Kapaun.

Those opposed to the Commission said the group will do more harm than good; others were concerned about the cost.

“Why would you want to control my thinking and my actions,” said Laurette Cuellar.

Those in favor of the Commission also spoke at Tuesday’s meeting, saying everyone should have a voice.

“It’s transparent. Everyone can see what’s going on,” said Kristen Schuble.

“We need to make sure we are listening to voices of people that need help,” added Sen. George Young, D-OKC, also speaking against the opposition.

“I’ve been Black all my life, 68 years,” he added. “You can’t tell me because you live in a neighborhood, what’s good for me, because you don’t encounter what I encounter.”

“Today, for the first time in a generation, the people of Oklahoma City live in a community with a Human Rights Commission,” said Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt in a news release Tuesday.

“The Oklahoma City Way triumphs once again. Most importantly, we have validated that all are welcome in Oklahoma City, and all are loved. In OKC, human rights for all is something we stand for,” the release added.

The Human Rights Commission will be made up of nine members. Each of the eight City Council members will recommend to the Mayor one person to represent their ward. The Mayor will appoint one person at large, who will serve as the commission chair. One member must be a lawyer.