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Cimarron Alliance's Hamilton says LGBT issues in Okla. are being better addressed

Liz Burleson / Red Dirt Report
Cimarron Alliance Executive Director Scott J. Hamilton
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OKLAHOMA CITY – With approximately 300 people in attendance at the Will Rogers Theater on Western Avenue on what would be an exciting, entertaining and informative evening, The Cimarron Alliance’s annual gala, “The Center of Your Life,” proved to be a smashing success, according to Cimarron Alliance Executive Director Scott J. Hamilton.

“I am very happy with it,” Hamilton told Red Dirt Report during a sit-down interview on Tuesday at the Cimarron Alliance offices.

Hamilton, who also emceed Friday night’s formal gathering of leaders and supporters of Oklahoma City’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community said feedback about the gala was overwhelmingly positive. 

Much of Red Dirt Report’s team, including founder and executive editor Andrew W. Griffin, were on hand to accept their “Excellence in Media” award. Griffin spoke and thanked Red Dirt Report’s hardworking writers and photographers, as well as all of their readers. He also thanked the Cimarron Alliance and Diversity Business Association for all their work in supporting the LGBT community in Oklahoma City.

Hamilton said he was “very emotional” when he took to the stage and saw 300 people together in the Will Rogers Theater.

“Ten years ago that would not have been possible to have all those people in the same room together, showing their support for LGBT equality in Oklahoma City,” he said, adding, “I thought, ‘Wow! We’re really making progress here.”

And Hamilton, during the gala, told the crowd how since the new Cimarron Alliance Equality Center opened up in March at 5613 N. May Avenue, the advocacy group’s visibility has dramatically increased, with as many as 3,000 people coming through the doors.

Among those honored at the gala included: Emon Delante Chavers, Horizon Award; Jimmy Chavez, Volunteer of the Year; Dr. Don Betz, Excellence in Education; Jim Roth, Torch Award; Nathaniel Batchelder, Community Ally Award; and Richard Ogden, Bill Rogers Lifetime Achievement Award.

Hamilton talked about the politicians who support equality and noted Oklahoma City Councilman and mayoral candidate Ed Shadid in the room, as well as Democrat Senate candidate Matt Silverstein, who is running against incumbent Jim Inhofe.

Tulsa-based Silverstein even brought Oklahoma Democratic Party Chairman Wallace Collins, who told Hamilton that this event is “very important.”

And another rising star in Oklahoma politics, State Rep. Emily Virgin (D-Norman), was also at the gala to received their annual “Legislative Award.”

“They get that LGBT issues are a part of, and not separate from, Oklahoma issues,” Hamilton said, adding, “And that it demonstrates that while the community is far from monolithic, that it’s also a vibrant, integral part of the future growth of Oklahoma City. And after Friday night, I have no doubt that that’s the case.”

Added Hamilton, “And I’m less concerned about the sexual orientation of a politician than I am with their commitment to progress.”

Later, Hamilton said he was touched when one of the food servers working the gala – a straight woman – came up to him and said she had no idea the event was LGBT related but when she learned what they were doing for the community in Oklahoma she said, “I’ve cried so many times because of what you’re doing. I’m so proud to be a server here tonight.”

Hamilton, who looked a little tired after working non-stop for three weeks to prepare for the gala, said he is impressed with the accomplishments Cimarron Alliance and their advocates and allies have made in the past few years. In fact this year there were no death threats or threatening emails sent either before or after the gala.

Things are changing for the better in Oklahoma - slowly. Just this week we learn from The Huffington Post that despite Oklahoma’s ban on gay marriage, a gay couple – Jason Pickel and Darren Black Bear – tied the knot within the borders of Oklahoma, via the Cheyenne and Arapahoe tribal court, making Pickel and Black Bear the first gay couple to be publicly married in Oklahoma.

And Hamilton told Red Dirt Report that after talking to us, he was doing a national interview about the so-called “Patriot Pastors” wanting to shut down The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told, a gay-themed play about the Creation in Genesis. State Rep. Dan Fisher and other far-right voices say the play is “an attack on Christian beliefs and values.” RDR's M.A. Smith wrote a story about that earlier this month.

“I think the play will completely sell out,” Hamilton says with a grin.

But then you see stories about Gov. Mary Fallin denying benefits to same-sex couples in the military or out-of-control tag agents refusing legally-married same-sex couples the opportunity to get a driver's license with their legal name on it, as noted here. There's is still much to be done.

And yet Hamilton and others are confident change will come to Oklahoma, a state with a progressive, early history.

“I feel like we have really turned a corner in addressing the needs of LGBT people," concluded Hamilton.

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