Freedom Oklahoma to hold Monday (April 8) march celebrating first openly gay Oklahoma City Council member
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Published: 05-Apr-2019

OKLAHOMA CITY— Freedom Oklahoma will host a march and rally on Monday, April 8 in the capital city of the Sooner State.
According to a press release sent to CapitolBeatOK, The City Sentinel and other news organizations, the event will celebrate the assumption of office by James Cooper, Oklahoma City’s first openly gay city council member. 

In advance of Cooper’s swearing-in, Freedom Oklahoma and allies will be addressed by the 
city’s mayor and other leaders.
Cooper, a public school teacher, on February 12 won the Ward 2 City Council race outright, garnering 53 percent support in a five-candidate race in which 4,586 people voted. 

This year’s race was Cooper’s second campaign for the Ward 2 slot. 
In 2015, he was one of three candidates who sought to unseat incumbent Ed Shadid (http://city-sentinel.com/2015/02/ed-shadid-faces-three-opponents-in-march-3-election-for-ward-2-city-council/).
Shadid won reelection and left office this week. 

In recent years, Cooper has served as a member of the local transportation board. 
The march of activists celebrating Cooper’s assumption of the Ward 2 post will begin at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, April 8, at the NW corner of Park and Broadway in downtown Oklahoma City. The march will end at City Hall. According to the release from Freedom Oklahoma, speakers will include Mayor David Holt, Freedom Oklahoma Executive Director Allie Shinn, and Cooper.
Shinn, deputy director at the American Civil Liberties Union (Oklahoma) from 2017-2019, became executive director for Freedom Oklahoma early last month.
 
During her ACLU tenure, starting in 2010, Shinn worked on criminal justice reform, first amendment and other issues ( http://city-sentinel.com/2019/02/aclus-allie-shinn-tapped-as-new-freedom-oklahoma-executive-director/).

One of the first major issues Cooper will face will be at the April 23 council meeting, when members will give further consideration to a special election slated for this summer. Possible referenda to discuss include a proposed charter amendment to reduce restrictions on mayor and council membership. Also under examination is a change to the Oklahoman Natural Gas franchise agreement.

The proposed changes were introduced in March, and a final hearing will take place at the Council meeting on April 23. If the Council votes to call the special election, Oklahoma City voters would consider the changes July 9 as separate ballot questions. Each requires a simple majority for voter approval. The governor of the state must also sign voter-approved amendments before they become law (http://city-sentinel.com/2019/03/oklahoma-city-council-considers-july-9-election-for-charter-amendments-ong-franchise/).

The amendment would keep restrictions for elected officials and senior government officers like state legislators and school superintendents, who cannot serve on the Council. But it would allow other state and federal government employees, such as teachers and engineers, to be Council members.

Under current rules incoming Ward 2 Councilman Cooper cannot retain his job as a public school teacher after taking his Council seat on Tuesday (April 9). If the measure goes to City voters and they give approval, in future situations a teacher elected would be able to remain a public employee while serving on the Council. 
Note: Pat McGuigan, founder of CapitolBeatOK, an online news service in Oklahoma City, contributed to this report.

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