The Equality Ride has rapped up its vists to two universities in Oklahoma. On March 23-24, the Equality Ride was at Oklahoma Baptist University,Â where school officials allowed the Riders onto campus but kept them confined to the student center, according to an Equality Ride press releaseÂ on the OBU visit.
On Thursday, March 23, 2006, the Oklahoma State School Board reversed an anti-discrimination policy which protected LGBT students. According to the Equality Ride press release:
In a shocking reversal, the Oklahoma state school board yesterday overturned a policy protecting gay students from discrimination from teachers. The previous policy stated that teachers could not “deny benefits to any student” or “grant any advantage to any student” based on sexual orientation. The new policy reads, “the teacher shall comply with all federal and state anti-discrimination laws.” Federal and state laws do not protect students on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
Representative Kevin Calvey of Del City, OK released a press statement yesterday taking credit for requesting this change from the school board and thanking various conservative religious organizations for their assistance. In a Tulsa World article, Representative Calvey justified his discrimination by citing the recent Equality Ride action at Oral Roberts University in which nine Riders and community members were arrested for trespassing. He suggested that this policy reversal would “protect” students from lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) activist groups meeting on public elementary and secondary school grounds. Carrying out Representative Calvey’s request was state schools superintendent Sandy Garrett, who pressed for passage of the change without public hearing.
“This change in policy by the Oklahoma school board has nothing to do with our actions in Oklahoma,” said Jacob Reitan, co-director of the Soulforce Equality Ride. “This is a cowardly act of election-year pandering from Representative Calvey and Superintendent Garrett.”
“This is a prime example of why we are here,” Reitan continued. “For state officials to use the First Amendment expressions of dissent by Equality Riders at a private religious university to withdraw protections from public schoolchildren shows the level of fear that exists about discussing the needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students.”
“These officials are afraid because their churches and ministers have made them afraid,” Reitan said. “Religious leaders have misused their authority to tell their followers that lesbian and gay people are sick, sinful and a threat to their children. It is time to bring this kind of religion-based discrimination to an end.”
Although the anti-gay move of the school board is sad… something like this should have been expected to occur somewhere, somehow during the Equality Ride tour. When people are afraid and when people’s fears get tested, they react by doing more to try to suppress or dismiss those fears.
Well…. that is the nice way of saying things. Some would say that Oklahoma is run by a bunch of bigots who care only about themselves and care nothing for children. Who do they think they are hurting? The Equality Riders? Absolutely Not. They hurting their own kids… their own gay kids and the sad thing is…. they don’t care.
The Equality Ride’s next stop is on Monday atÂ Abeline Christian University in Abeline, Texas. According to an article by the ACU Optimist, the Equality Riders are also being welcomed onto the campus, instead of being turned away or arrested like at Liberty, Regent or Oral Roberts Universities. The stop at Abeline will be the seventh stop in the 19-stop tour.