Last edited: January 01, 2005


Mayor Urging Change in City Banner Policy

Oklahoman, July 11, 2001
P. O. Box 25125, Oklahoma City, OK 73125
Fax: 405-475-3971

By Jack Money, Staff Writer

Mayor Kirk Humphreys is hoping to change a policy that allows groups like the Cimarron Alliance Foundation to use banner brackets on Oklahoma City utility poles to promote gay and lesbian pride.

With the banners still being displayed along Classen Boulevard, Humphreys is asking city staff to determine whether such messages can be rejected in the future.

Humphreys said the community’s well-being plays a role in his opposition to such banners.

The banners in question feature a torch with a rainbow flame over the name of the Cimarron Alliance Foundation. The banners promote gay and lesbian pride and the notion that gays and lesbians are human, too.

"Our banners are not obscene, so they clearly are legally protected free speech," said Bill Rogers, an attorney and a member of the Cimarron Alliance.

Humphreys said he doesn’t believe the city would allow religious banners on its poles because they would be controversial and might violate a court-mandated separation between church and state.

Humphreys said homosexual-based messages should be banned because they are controversial.

Humphreys said he believes the city’s banner policy should prohibit all that don’t contain "positive" community messages.

"What our staff is saying is that we can’t prohibit the Cimarron Alliance from doing this because of the First Amendment: They have a right to say what they want, and their activities aren’t illegal," Humphreys said.

"Well, a religious activity is legal, and a cross is a matter of freedom of speech, too. I don’t understand the argument."

Oklahoma City has 1,240 banner locations within its city limits that are available for use by community groups to promote activities.

City Manager Jim Couch said he agrees with Humphreys that stricter guidelines should be considered.

The city’s staff granted a permit for Cimarron Alliance’s banners to be put on 44 poles along Classen. City leaders decided to take the banners down after receiving complaints.

They then put them back up after attorneys representing the foundation threatened to file a lawsuit against the city.

Couch said his staff will look at the policies of other cities for answers.

City Attorney Bill West said he needs to meet with Couch and Humphreys before starting his research on what types of regulations the city could put on the banner program.

"I am not going to rule out anything," West said Tuesday. "I am really a strong believer in the First Amendment."

Rogers, once a member of Oklahoma City’s now defunct Human Rights Commission, sees the flap over the banners as another chapter in an ongoing effort to erase homosexuality awareness from the community.

"They may not be popular with everybody, but that doesn’t make any difference," Rogers said. "The protection of unpopular speech is fundamental to the American way of life — that is what we are all about in this country."

Humphreys disagreed.

"They (homosexuals) have a right to behave that way if they want to — although some aspects of it are illegal, quite frankly," he said.

"But I don’t think they have the right to use public facilities to advance their philosophy, for the same reasons that Neo-Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan and religious groups don’t."

Humphreys said the city’s staff likely would not allow banners from hate groups like the Neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan.

"We practice discretion, but I think we are afraid of threats from groups like the Cimarron Alliance. I find it offensive that we won’t put up a religious message, but we will put up an irreligious message. And I don’t think we ought to put either one up."

Rogers said the mayor is inviting trouble.

"Our basic problem is in convincing people that homosexuals are subject to discrimination. This incident with the banners just paints it across the sky."

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