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I promise you what I am about to say is true: I don’t take the unpopular side of every issues just to be a douche.

I know that making a statement like that is an odd way to begin a blog post, but we are going to be talking about local politics and specifically Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett and Norman Mayor Cindy Rosenthal, so in light of these circumstances, I felt it might be appropriate. Plus, I am preparing to go on a tirade here of epic proportions and I wont be mincing words, so use of the word “douche” in the first sentence was the most thoughtful way I could think of to fire off the opening salvo.

I should also warn you that this is the scene in my hotel room right now. Well, more specifically: this is the scene as it applies to this post. Yep, thats 190 Proof (95% pure alcohol). Its a generic version of Everclear. In other words, I’m quickly on my way to becoming drunk. Don’t ask me why I am calling a hotel my residence until I find a new place that meets my very particular requirements in Norman. Lets just say the lease on my last place ended on February 28th and I elected not to renew and got lazy about finding a new place.

Anyway, first up is the election results in Norman. Mayor Cindy Rosenthal was re-elected, carrying 53.65% (6,798) of the vote and two spending measures passed as well. 64.72% (8,170) of the voters decided to spend $19 million on roads and infrastructure projects, while 62.07% (7,814)of the voters decided to spend $2.5 million on expanding the warning siren system. I voted against both spending measures and against Mayor Cindy.

I voted against the spending measure because the roads within the city limits of Norman are fine. There is nothing wrong with them. Oklahoma City roads are far worse. I voted against expanding the warning siren system to cover the entire city way out into the boonies of Lake Thunderbird because (and this is another reason I voted against the infrastructure bond, too) while it is something that should be looked at in the future, we are in a recession and money is tight for alot of people. City government should be tightening its belt with the rest of us, not continuing the frivolous spending spree that has gone unchecked in Norman for quite a while. The area that will be served is sparsely populated and because most tornadoes stay on the ground for less than a mile, the risk of a tornado hitting and doing serious damage to many homes (as opposed to one or two or a few homes) is very small. Those who are concerned should buy emergency weather radios (which receive the same signal that the sirens receive to activate and sound an alert locally), not force the cost of government-funded sirens on a struggling population.

I voted against re-electing Cindy Rosenthal because she is a liar. She campaigned on a platform of reducing government waste and making Norman city government efficient. Throughout her time in office, she has consistently reaffirmed this mission and used as her central theme at times. Being fiscally conservative, you might wonder why I have a problem with someone who takes this platform. The reason I opposed her is because she did not follow through. That is, she said one thing while doing another. Last year, she worked to get a $50 million spending measure passed to build a new city library. While I am in favor of education, I believe in delivering education in an educated manner and what Cindy did was just stupid. Less than three miles from The University of Oklahoma, which has one of the state’s largest and best libraries by any measure (size or depth of collections, number of items, computers, resources, hours of operation, staff, etc) she wants to spend $50 million bucks to build a new library to serve the exact same population. This is a massive waste of money. In a flyer supporting the most recent two spending measures, mailed at taxpayer expense (of course) city officials forced their agenda down our throats on these two issues. The fact that these things are even allowed to happen on her watch prove that she is incompetent as a mayor.

Now, we go to the Oklahoma City mayor’s race, where homophobe and parasite Mick Cornett was – according to The Daily Oklahoman – “comfortably re-elected, with 58.3% (14,073) of the vote favoring another term. This really pissed me off because this guy is a complete louse and I cannot understand for the life of me why every queer in the city limits is not out marching in the streets right now. Well, actually I do know why the queers are not doing anything about him, but thats another topic for another day.

For those who think our pal Mick is still an all right guy, lets look at what makes him who he is, shall we?  First off, there is the disturbing little incident which no one seemed to notice except Gossip Boy (its worth noting that this news outlet is really run by a nutcase, but on occasion, even nutcases say things that are relevant and spot on, this was one of those incidents) whereby Cornett tried to pack the library board with anti-gay religious nuts. Perhaps it was an isolated incident, but a look at his connections suggests that this was no mere coincidence.

Mick is tied to organizations that are unfriendly to homosexuals. Mick is not just the mayor, he is also the Executive Vice President of Ackerman McQueen (AM), a powerhouse of an ad agency. AM manages publicity for OPUBCO, which publishes The Oklahoman, also known as America’s worst daily newspaper according to The Columbia Journalism Review. AM also manages public relations for The Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce. What a shock that The Oklahoman, The OKC Chamber of Commerce and Mick all just happened to come out in favor of MAPS 3. AM clients have helped further Mick’s agenda in the past before, for instance Taco Bell (which is owned by Yum Brands – whose public relations are, you guessed it, managed by AM) came out in support of Mick’s This City is Going on a Diet campaign to encourage weight loss. The diet campaign is not a bad thing for the most part, but this level of corporate involvement in politics is rarely a good thing.

MAPS3, well, now thats another matter entirely. Most people are well aware of the fact that I don’t believe in corporate welfare or the abuse of imminent domain. As such, I was mostly opposed to MAPS3, which Mick managed to pass by a narrow margin. I say “mostly opposed” because there was a small nugget of useful, responsible spending on public transportation. However, if I were an Oklahoma City voter, I would have voted against the proposal because spending a few million in a responsible manner in a spending bill that has a pricetag of $777 million and contains reprehensible amounts of pork and corporate welfare is complete and utter bullshit. Just because a  bill has one redeeming aspect does not mean it should be passed, and alot of people voted for this bill solely because of the inclusion of public transit which folks have been clamoring for over the course of many years.

Before Mick became mayor, he used to own a company called Mick Cornett Video Productions, which provided production services to the commercial and legal sectors. He has worked in the media as a reporter, anchorman and manager. He has worked in nearly every aspect of media and he knows how to spin an issue and manipulate people like a master. This is evidenced by the passage of MAPS3, which had lots of opposition, but not enough to stop it. All of these facts come down to this: Mayor Mick Cornett is as slick and as dangerous as they come. His political career needs to be terminated before he makes a run for the governor’s office and wins, bringing his special, seductive brand of homophobia and fiscal irresponsibility to the rest of the state from it’s highest office.

So is there a point to all of this, or am I just trashing Cornett? Yes, there is a point – and I am going to make now and do so directly to my fellow queers. With another four years of Cornett, as sure as the sun will rise in the morning, there will be another MAPS proposal. This time, we should be smart and make sure that we get something out of the deal. By we, I mean us queers. More than anything else, Oklahoma City needs a comprehensive queer community center that serves the needs of the queer community exclusively. That should include not only a center that provides comprehensive programing and services like Tulsa’s Oklahomans for Equality but it should also provide shelter services for homeless and struggling queer youth. You might be surprised to know how many queer youth in this city are homeless or abandoned by their family. Further, the center should provide educational services and job training.

We should must work together and send a message to Cornett that reads as follows:

Dear Mr. Cornett,

You have been re-elected. We’d rather you were not, but you are. We’re going to make the best of it, but we have a condition.

If you want to tax us further for one of your fancy little urban renewal projects, i.e. MAPS4, then you’re going to stop taking our money and spending all of it on amusements for straight rich people in Bricktown. You’re going to spend some of that money helping us, providing basic services that we need to enjoy a quality of life.

We’re tired of you taking our queer money and not providing us basic services. It amounts to taxation without representation. We’re not taking it anymore. Either play ball, or we will shoot down your next project.

Sincerely,

The Oklahoma City Queer Community

Will we rise to the occasion and come together for something that this city desperately needs? Or will we continue to be more interested in doing nothing particularly useful and playing the victim? Time will tell. Cornett’s re-election is bad for us, but we can and should turn it into something useful. Cornett is one of those people that could careless that queer youth live on our streets. As long as he gets his MAPS proposals passed, he is happy damn us all to hell. The only thing he will understand or heed is a direct promise to torpedo his proposals (and by extension, his political career) and then he will play ball.

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So this past Friday, I appeared on The American Heathen Radio Network’s talk show. We had a great time talking about the issues, and we also made an announcement. There is going to be a second lawsuit regarding vanity plates in Oklahoma in the near future. The host of the show, RJ Evans has previously been granted a tag reading “ATHEIST” by the OTC. However, the OTC has in the past denied the tag “GODLESS”. Evans is going to apply for the GODLESS tag later this week and when it is denied, bring suit against the OTC for the improper denial.

This is particularly disturbing (while at the same time being quite amusing) because it shows the highly subjective manner in which the OTC grants and denies tags. Simply put: the manner in which the OTC adjudicates applications is both arbitrary and capricious. Atheist means godless. The idea that the word atheist is not offensive but godless is offensive is pure poppycock. Whats more, it shows that the OTC is not even consistent in denying one side of a single issue the right to speak. While they have (as far as I know) kept all the gays from getting plates that could express their gayness, they clearly haven’t done the same for the atheists. No doubt, they’ll claim that this was another one of those plates that “slipped through”, but its been issued for over three years. As the Administrative Law Judge pointed out in the administrative hearings phase of the protest, each year a plate is renewed was an opportunity to deny such renewal and correct any plates that had “slipped through” and the OTC, in all of the examples that were considered at the hearing, elected not to do so.

So now we have the two biggest hot button issues in on this fight. We have religion and we have homosexuality. As RJ has astutely pointed out, this a separation of church and state issue as much as its a free speech and gay rights issue. We have a government agency which has claimed for itself the right to exclude certain people from the conversation that is taking place on about 56,000 vanity plates in the state based on criteria that is neither written nor specific. Who gets and plate and doesn’t get a plate is up to the personal prejudices of the individual encoder examining the application. When you let some people on one side of an issue talk and deny that right to others, its viewpoint-based discrimination. In Cimarron Alliance v. City of Oklahoma City, Ok, 290 F.Supp.2d 1252 (W.D. Okl., 2002), the federal Courts took a definitive stand against viewpoint-based discrimination.

While this started out being about me getting a license plate I wanted to express myself, it has quickly become about so much more. Its no longer just about me or my plate and its not even about gay rights. While all of these are components and motivating factors, This is about free speech and separation of church and state. Two of the most fundamental rights we as citizens of the United States hold to be of paramount importance. If the Oklahoma Tax Commission gets away with its conduct in this case, this signals a huge change in our rights. It will be the dawn of a new era in which the 1st amendment is void where prohibited, restricted or taxed by law or administrative rule. This case will set precedent and change the direction of free speech in this country.

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Well, I expected that the local Oklahoma City-based media would pay attention to the lawsuit I filed against The Oklahoma Tax Commission. I figured some outlets from around Oklahoma would also pay attention. I even thought that I might get a few “Attaboy!”s from a few concerned homos across state lines. But I did not expect CNN to call me about Nancy Grace possibly being interested in the case nor did I expect celebrity gossip blog Dlisted to turn the case into a referendum on my fashion choices by naming me “Hot Slut of the Day”. But all of those things have happened today, and many others.

Something else has happened as well. I have received dozens of communications from folks telling me what kinds of plates they have seen around or had issued to them. Its become a discussion about license plates and the phenomenon. I am convinced now – more than at any other point in this whole fiasco – that the OTC has lost this case. They may as well tape all applications up on the wall and throw darts at them to decide who gets a plate and who doesn’t. Its all based on, well, who knows what its based on. I don’t even think they know.

Here are two observations from those communications:

  • A fellow Norman resident called to tell me they granted his tag “ATHEIST”. Odd, since they have denied “GODLESS” and others. So not only do they engage in viewpoint-based discrimination, they are not even consistent in their discrimination within a single topic.
  • From a comment on the News 9 Story: “I don’t see anything wrong with the tag. There is a guy in Norman that has a tag that reads NOFTCHX. Which means NO FAT CHICKS, he can have that but an outwardly gay man can’t have an IM GAY tag. Get real people whatever happened to freedom of speech???”

Oh, and last – but certainly not least – there is this:

Media coverage in the case has apparently reached a nationwide level already, as I have some lonely, single (presumably, gay) guy who thinks I am cute and wants to get to know me in a really hurry. He is 22 years old, works at Sams Club and is from some town I have never heard of in New York. He found my cell number somewhere (probably the damned press release) and started texting me telling me he wanted to be friends on Facebook. I approved the friend request he sent and he immediately started chatting me up.

I was on the phone with a reporter when all this happened, so I had to ask him to stop messaging me on my Facebook chat like a dozen times so I could concentrate on my call and not sound like a stuttering idiot to the reporter on the other end who was trying to get me to come on his radio show (which I will be appearing on this Friday from 7 to 10 PM, I am sitting on the entire show). He would stop for about a minute and then start back in and ask me if I am still there and such. He was half groveling and half worshiping me, while asking what I thought of him looks wise.

It was a bit over the top and I finally snapped and swore at him out of frustration (and immediately felt bad for doing it, how was he supposed to know I am not a patient person) and told him I was looking for the block button on Facebook. He asked why and I told him, point blank: he was annoying the hell out of me. He then freaked out and begged for forgiveness and for me not to block him. It was at this point that I realized a measure of humility was needed here.

Honestly, I felt sorry for the guy. Clearly, he was happy to have found a friend. He doesn’t have many on Facebook and I wonder if I am the only gay guy he knows or who will talk to him. The world is a cruel place for a homosexual when you are all alone. Even when you are around folks who understand and support you, its not much less cruel. Some of the things being said about me in the comments sections of various news sites are completely uncalled for. There are areas of New York that are every bit as conservative as Oklahoma, so I can understand and appreciate some of what he is facing. Hell, I was there not so long ago.

I don’t know his situation, but I’ll try to find out and help if I can. He’s offline now and the reporter is off the phone. I just hope he doesn’t kill himself or something. He did strike me as perhaps a little unbalanced and/or desperate for human contact and he said something about him having ADHD. The way society treats gay people, its a wonder that they manage to survive at all, much less some of them become truly awesome. Bigot Sally Kern once made light of how gay kids have high suicide rates. I wonder if it ever occurred to her that maybe thats the case because society – led by people like her – so often treat these people like utter trash to the point that they as human beings just shut down and lose all desire and reason for living.

Overall, I feel very good about where this case is headed. The media is covering this story fairly and accurately, which surprises me a little bit. I figured we’d have some outlet come out with a hatchet job of a story, spun around to fit some biased viewpoint. But they don’t seem to be doing that. The Oklahoman ran a factual story, followed closely by The Associated Press’s take on it. I take that in and of itself as a sign of progress. We’re going to open some doors in Oklahoma with this one. Now, some folks are not going to want them opened, but they will be opened none the less.

I say all this is all a good thing. We’re moving forward. Attitudes are changing here.

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This is the third update to a developing story I’ve been following for a while now. See the first two parts here and here. The following letter was received from Ed Payton, a member of the Union School District’s Board who voted in favor of keeping “Buster’s Sugartime” on shelves at the school’s libraries, a move which is now making national news. The e-mail was sent from the celebrityattractions.com domain, which appears to be a Payton family business in Tulsa that includes a theater.

Here is the message I received this morning:

This email is being sent to everyone who communicated their opinion to me regarding the recent Union Board of Education decision about the book, ‘Buster’s Sugartime’.

This process reminded me how fortunate we are at Union to have Administrators who clearly demonstrated their commitment to our students and their respect for Union parents.

I was one of three board members who voted to retain the book in our library. I did so because, after careful consideration, I did not believe it was a book advocating any illegal behavior, or particular lifestyle. Rather, it was a book that provided an opportunity for new readers to improve their reading skills, while expanding their understanding of the world around them.

I would like to correct a perception expressed by a few of you who made remarks in your email about the parents who request the book’s removal (‘homophobic’, ‘narrow-minded’, ‘censors’, etc). From my direct experience with these parents during the hearing, those criticisms do not apply. The parents were reasonable individuals, who presented their concerns in a respectful and thoughtful manner. Their concerns did not appear to emanate from a religious or political agenda, but rather from practical parenting. They felt it inappropriate for a kindergartener [sic] to be able to check out a book which contains references to a same sex couple living in a civil union when such a union is illegal in Oklahoma. While I disagree with that position, I can still appreciate their concernn [sic]. Nothing in their presentation indicated that these individuals are homophobic, book banners or book burners. In fact, they stated that this book would be totally appropriate in any state where civil unions or gay marriages were recognized.

If we are ever to move beyond the rancor and raised voices that too often accompany discussions related to this and other ‘hot-button’ issues, we must all learn the respect, civility and good manners that were exhibited by the Union Administrators and the Parents in this situation.

Thank you again for taking the time to share your thoughts with me. I am more convinced than ever that the Board made the correct decision, and am equally convinced that the kindergartner [sic] in this matter is fortunate to have parents as engaged as these two.

Ed. L. Payton

The following is a response that I filed with Ed by e-mail:

Hi Ed,

First off, thanks for voting to keep the book in the Union school
libraries. I’m glad that you did the right thing. Second, thank you for writing and providing those of us who could not attend the Board Meeting with insight into the thoughts behind your votes.

I agree with you wholeheartedly where you stated that we are fortunate that the Board has folks on it now who listened to students, teachers and others who commented on the item in question. A few years ago, there is a good chance we might not be where we are today and the school district might find itself on the business end of an expensive lawsuit. I’m glad to see that we have made such progress, it gives me hope for a state that some consider hopeless.

However, I’d like to point out that while the parents may indeed have presented their concerns in a professional and respectful manner, the concern they presented was indicative of a homophobic point of view. They were asking you and your fellow board members to remove from view a display of homosexuality that they found offensive for no reason other than the fact that it was homosexual in nature. That, by definition, is homophobia.

There are two types of homophobes: those who are uneducated and scream at the top of their lungs about how the sodomites must be removed from society, that they are going to hell, ad nauseum. The second group is quite educated and presents their homophobia in a much less obnoxious manner. Its the kinder, gentler homophobia and its much more dangerous because those people are smart enough to pass their homophobia off as
a legitimate concern. It looks to me like the parents in this
situation fall squarely into the second group.

The legality or lack thereof of same-sex unions in Oklahoma is
irrelevant to the matter at hand. This is an attempt to tie
homosexuality to an illegal act in an effort to distract from the
issue at hand while demonizing homosexuals. Our Supreme Court has already spoken on this issue and they were quite clear. Homosexuality is not illegal and the people who practice it (regardless of whether folks believe its a choice or the way they are) are not second class citizens. They are entitled to the same rights and the same exposure in the media as everyone else, including the books found in public school libraries.

Not all viewpoints are equal and some are just plain wrong. How can one tell the difference? Simply substitute “same sex” and “homosexual” (and other similar terms) with “mixed race couple” and “African American”. If this same parent came to your Board and asked for this book to be removed because it depicted an African American and a Cacasion being together, would the parents have even been given the time of day by the District? I highly doubt that they would have.

This is how to look at something and find out whats really behind the concern. People often say one thing while doing and meaning another. Its human nature to be manipulative and use false fronts to achieve our goals in life. So were the parents in this case really worried just about protecting kids from indecent material, or making sure that their kids never learn that homosexuality exists and has a legitimate place in our society?

If you have further questions about my comments here, or the ones I filed initially, please feel free to call me anytime at 405.886.5095. As one of the thousands of homosexuals who call Oklahoma my home, I’m always happy to reach out to our elected and appointed leadership to increase understanding of and on issues that are important to me.

It is interesting to note that because of the manner in which the e-mail was sent, I was able to ascertain the e-mail address of each recipient of the letter.  There were a mere 31 people that Ed sent his letter to. So, if he sent it to everyone who e-mailed a comment and since its unlikely there was time for replies to be sent in by mail or delivered personally to the Board, it looks like only those who e-mailed were heard from by the board. The Board did not accept in-person comments at its meeting.

A mere 31 letters were enough for this district to get the message loud and clear. That further assumes that all of the letters were in favor of our position, which its unlikely that they all were. So in this case, the time 31 people took to write a letter to their elected officials, forever changed Oklahoma for the better. I’m proud to know at least two of those people personally, as I recognize their e-mail addresses amongst the recipients.

I’m very proud of our community right now, thanks for everyone who took the time to write in. It very clearly did make a difference!

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The blizzard of e-mails to the Union School District produced results this evening, as the district voted to keep copies of “Buster’s Sugartime,” by Marc Brown on shelves. Special thanks to the fine folks at Oklahomans for Equality for getting the word out about this.

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Just got the following urgent message from Oklahomans for Equality, I’m passing it on here as a public service. Lets go, go, go – we only have a couple of hours to get e-mails in!

Oklahomans for Equality is monitoring a possible book banning issue developing in the Union Public School District of Tulsa County.

The book is “Buster’s Sugartime” by author Marc Brown which was on an episode of the “Postcards from Buster” series on PBS.

The school board will meet at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Union Public Schools Education Service Center located at 8506 E. 61st St. The board will decide whether to remove the book or possibly limit access to it. This will not be a public forum where people can speak. No public comments will be allowed.

The Board of Education is addressing the situation after a parent brought their concerns to the district’s Materials Review Committee. The committee chose to keep the book on library shelves. The parent was opposed to the depiction of a child with two parents of the same gender. The parent has appealed the committee’s decision to the Union Public School Board.

Nancy McDonald president of PFLAG Tulsa says ” Our society embraces all kinds of families. Those “families” take on many different combinations such as, opposite sex, single parent, grandparents, same-sex and those families can be made up of different races, religions, cultures, ages, and sexual orientation. It is so important that young children have opportunities to see “their” families displayed in reading materials, movies, plays, print, and to know that the most important thing is that they are loved, cared for, and valued no matter what their family structure is.”

Please contact the Union Public School Board Secretary Beverly Thummel by emailing thummel.beverly@unionps.org. Your email will be shared with the Union School Board so be polite and respectful in your tone. If you are in the District 9 Independent Union School District please include that in your correspondence. Please refrain from calling the District’s office.

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When it comes to hurting people in the Queer community, it is true that I can be pretty damned heartless when it comes to taking pleasure in the demise of those responsible for doing the hurting. One such case came when I was browsing the Internet a few moments ago and I learned that Flip’s Wine Bar & Trattoria was gutted by a fire last night. I could hardly sit still, overcome with glee. Until I learned that the wretched place is going to reopen. As far as I am concerned, the only travesty here is that it’ll reopen – and that two fire fighters were injured trying to put it out.  Oh, and that Gail Vines – its homophobic co-owner – is likely going to obtain a huge settlement from fire insurance. Yes, those are the only tragedies here today.

Of Course, not mentioned in the coverage provided by The Oklahoman (not surprisingly) is the fact that Flips has been under boycott by the smarter half of the Oklahoma queer community for several months. The reason for this is that Gail Vines also sits on the Oklahoma City School Board, where she voted to fire an openly gay teacher Joe Quigley. The Oklahoma City School District really wanted to get rid of Joe. Why did they want him gone, you ask? Did he molest a pupil, rape a turtle or smoke a blunt in class? No! Our friend Joe committed the audacious sin of trying to get sexual orientation and gender identity included in the district’s anti-bullying policy. Thankfully, he has since been reinstated while the school district pisses away taxpayer money pursuing a frivolous appeal.

Often after a fire, people get soft and compassionate. Gail doesn’t deserve our compassion. There is nothing to indicate that she has changed her queer-hating ways. Lets not allow this to be used by a homophobe and an enemy of our community. Gail had her chance to walk her talk and show she was not homophobic. She instead choose to hide behind her lawyer. May all of you stay strong in our joint mission against queerphobia – and stay away from Flip’s Wine Bar & Trattoria.

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