Comment leaves LGBT+ community questioning their safety

Ken Coartney's comment. Photo via Facebook.

by Kara Kliewer
Staff Writer

Early one May morning, Tobe Vann, a 22-year-old Oklahoma City man, went for a late-night snack and ended up being confronted by discrimination.

“I walked into the store [Insomnia Cookies in OKC, OK] to get a cookie like everyone else does, according to Vann.   

“I could hear him [perpetrator] saying things but I didn't really pay attention to him. My friend Janay told me he was saying stuff to us so I asked him if he was talking to me. He continued to say, ‘yeah fag I'm talking to you.’ Apparently, I was staring at his guy friend, who was thoroughly embarrassed by his friend’s actions. The guy continued to say more hateful words saying that ‘he's not a queer and doesn't want [a] queer looking at him.’ After the ranting, his body language was starting to get aggressive. Naturally that made me aggressive. Shortly after that he punched me in the face.”

During the incident, Vann fought back.

This past weekend, Deputy Sheriff Ken Coartney with the Cleveland County Sheriff’s department took to Facebook to express personal, discriminatory feelings.

“The new generation is filled with lib tards, transvestites, gays, and sissies who need a safe room,” according to Coartney.

"I support the rights of every American and my employees to exercise their First Amendment rights to free speech," according to Cleveland County Sheriff Joe Lester. "However, I hold my personnel to a higher standard. I expect them to be aware that when they express an opinion publicly, they represent themselves, the agency, and all of law enforcement in the community.

"I take this incident very serious and I have ordered this matter to be investigated in accordance with our complaint protocol. I have spoken with Troy Stevenson of Freedom Oklahoma and we are working together to prevent incidents like this from occurring in the future." 

Richard Sturt said a Facebook friend saw the comment and sent him the screenshots.

“When an individual openly advertises their place of employment on Facebook, they take on a level of responsibility to act by a set of standards,” said Sturt. “In this particular situation, with the individual being employed as a deputy, he swore an oath to serve and protect. He made his views regarding LGBTQ folks, millennials, and non-conservatives abundantly clear. There is a tangible amount of distrust between police and civilians, and this only reinforces that distrust.”

Unfortunately, this comment is not the first of its kind displayed by an Oklahoma officer.

In a 2015 story, The Lost Ogle exposed Beckham County Sheriff Scott Jay for posting memes displaying discriminatory messages. These messages included discriminatory language against members within the Hispanic, African American and trans communities.

More recently, in March of this year the Daily Beast wrote a story revealing discriminatory behavior occurrences at the Tulsa County jail. “An Oklahoma sheriff admitted that staff in his jail referred to black employees as ‘n**gronoids.’”

While the behavior cited doesn't necessarily have physical repercussions, it leaves a community facing discrimination concerned about the assistance they might receive from officers.

“It’s obvious that discrimination is alive and well in today's society,” according to Vann. “I also believe that gay people are still not accepted or fully safe. It's gotten better but we still have to be careful and vigilant of our surroundings.”

Copyright The Gayly – 8/14/2017 3:25 p.m. CST