Over 4.5% of American adults identify as LGBT. Approximately 113,000 LGBT adults live in Oklahoma. Oklahoma does not have a statewide law that expressly prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, leaving LGBT people vulnerable to harassment and discrimination in the state.
This report summarizes evidence of discrimination against LGBT people in Oklahoma, explains the current protections from sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination in Oklahoma cities, and estimates the administrative impact of adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the state’s existing non-discrimination laws.
LGBT people in Oklahoma report experiencing discrimination and harassment in employment, housing, public accommodations, and other settings.
- An estimated 113,000 LGBT adults live in Oklahoma. There are approximately 74,000 LGBT people aged 16 and older in Oklahoma’s workforce.
- Survey data indicate that LGBT people experience discrimination across the U.S., including in Oklahoma. For example, a 2016 survey conducted by the Center of American Progress found that 25% of LGBT people in the U.S. had experienced some type of discrimination within the past year. In addition, the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey found that 26% of transgender respondents from Oklahoma who held or applied for a job in the prior year reported that they had been fired, denied a promotion, or not hired because of their gender identity or expression. In addition, 15% of transgender survey respondents from Oklahoma reported experiencing some form of housing discrimination, such as being evicted or denied housing, in the prior year because of their gender identity or expression. And, 25% of respondents who visited a place of public accommodation in Oklahoma where employees knew or thought they were transgender reported experiencing some form of mistreatment, including denial of equal treatment or service, verbal harassment, or physical assault in the prior year.
- In addition, aggregated data from two large public opinion polls conducted between 2011 and 2013 indicated that 78% of Oklahoma residents thought that LGBT people experience discrimination in the state. Another public opinion poll conducted in 2016 found that 51% of Oklahoma residents thought that gay and lesbian people experience a lot of discrimination in the U.S. and 55% of Oklahoma residents thought that transgender people experience a lot of discrimination in the U.S.
- National survey data on discrimination against LGBT people are consistent with data from Oklahoma. For example, a national survey of LGBT people conducted by Pew Research Center in 2013 found that 21% of respondents said that they had been treated unfairly by an employer in hiring, pay, or promotions and 23% had received poor service at a restaurant, hotel, or other place of business because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
- Reports of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in Oklahoma have also been documented in court cases and the media.
Research indicates that LGBT people in Oklahoma experience economic instability.
- Data collected through the Gallup Daily Tracking Poll indicate that LGBT people in Oklahoma experience poor socioeconomic outcomes:
- 28% of LGBT adults in Oklahoma reported having a household income below $24,000 compared to 24% of non-LGBT adults.
- 25% of LGBT adults in Oklahoma reported that they did not have health insurance compared to 16% of non-LGBT adults.
- 36% of LGBT adults in Oklahoma reported not having enough money for food compared to 19% of non-LGBT adults.
- 11% of LGBT adults in Oklahoma reported being unemployed compared to 5% of non-LGBT adults.
- Research has linked socioeconomic disparities for LGBT people to geographic regions, such as the South, with fewer legal protections and a poorer social climate for LGBT people.
Local governments, private employers, and public universities in Oklahoma have made efforts to protect LGBT people from discrimination and harassment, but coverage is incomplete.
- One city in Oklahoma, Norman, has a local ordinance that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing, and public accommodations. Three other cities, Lindsay, Oklahoma City, and Tulsa have ordinances that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in housing, but not in other areas.
- The four local ordinances protect approximately 29% of adults in Oklahoma from discrimination in housing based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Norman’s more comprehensive ordinance also protects approximately 3% of adults in Oklahoma from discrimination in public accommodations and 3% of Oklahoma’s workforce from discrimination in employment based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
- Many of Oklahoma’s largest corporate employers have adopted internal policies prohibiting discrimination against LGBT people. Of the 20 largest private-sector employers in the state, 15 have policies that prohibit employment discrimination based on sexual orientation, and 13 also prohibit discrimination based on gender identity. In addition, several colleges and universities in Oklahoma prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, including Oklahoma’s two largest universities, the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University.
- Despite these policies, many LGBT Oklahoma residents are not protected from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity absent a statewide non-discrimination law that includes these characteristics.
Public opinion in Oklahoma supports the passage of non-discrimination protections for LGBT people.
- In response to a 2018 poll, 55% of those polled in Oklahoma said they favor laws protecting LGBT people from discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations.
- In response to a national poll conducted in 2011, 68% of those polled in Oklahoma said that Congress should pass a federal law to prohibit employment discrimination based on sexual
orientation and gender identity.
A statewide law prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in Oklahoma would not be administratively burdensome or costly to enforce.
- Adding sexual orientation and gender identity to Oklahoma’s non-discrimination law would result in an estimated 42 additional complaints, on average, being filed with the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office of Civil Rights Enforcement each year.
- The additional complaints could likely be absorbed into the existing enforcement system with no need for additional staff and negligible costs.