Freedom Oklahoma moves to new location
By Rob Howard
(Oklahoma City, OK) Freedom Oklahoma, Oklahoma’s statewide LGBT advocacy organization is following up on a successful effort during the state’s legislative session by moving to new offices. “We had lots of offers of support, particularly since the legislative session, said Troy Stevenson, the organization’s Executive Director. One of those offers was “from a community supporter who had office space, and was willing to donate it to us.”
The old location, on North May Ave, was expensive, and according to a study, was only utilized 16 percent of the time by the community. The move frees up over $30,000 that Stevenson intends to use to expand staff in furtherance of the organization’s mission of LGBT advocacy and public education on LGBT rights issues.
The offices, located at NW 39th and Classen Blvd., will be nearer to the “gayborhood,” and other areas, such as the Paseo District, that have larger populations of community members. The move is “Mainly a way to be closer to the community,” said Stevenson. The groups that were meeting in the previous facility will continue to meet at the new location, but, he added, “it will be more oriented to our mission, it will be a political office” that will focus on the group’s lobbying at the legislature and on public education.
During the 2015 Oklahoma legislative session, 18 anti-LGBT bills were proposed. Freedom Oklahoma, and other groups, successfully lobbied senators and representatives, and all of the bills died. However, Stevenson expects continued efforts at the capitol that would negatively affect the LGBT community.
One of his first priorities is to get more staff on board to prepare for the 2016 legislative session, and do public education work on LGBT issues. “We will be doing town hall meetings across the state on employment, housing discrimination and conversion therapy. We want to be sure that this is not just happening in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, but also in smaller communities. We plan to go to regional universities and other places around the state to make sure that kind of education is being done in our medium and smaller sized markets,” Stevenson said.
Communities mentioned as possibilities for meetings include Lawton, Durant, Tahlequah, Ada, and possibly Shawnee, Seminole, Muskogee and Ponca City. All of these efforts energize and educate citizens in those communities, so they can better communicate with their local legislators.
Other plans include in-service training for organizations. “This year we did our first transgender in-service day with Crossroads Hospice focusing on transgender healthcare and aging in the LGBT community. They wanted to make sure their staff understood the specific needs of the LGBT community, especially with end of life care. There is a massive clergy component to hospice care, so we had clergy to teach chaplains how to minister to the LGBT community at the end of their lives,” he said.
Freedom Oklahoma began using the new offices in June on a limited basis, mainly as a staging point for their effort at OKC Pride. The last day at the previous location was June 30, with the new office opening on July 1.
Published on www.gayly.com on 7/4/2015 at 1:03 CST