November 13, 2017
A town clerk in Hitchcock, Oklahoma, has filed a federal lawsuit against local police and government officials because he claims they turned a deaf ear to his complaints of homophobic and racist harassment inflicted on him and his family.
Randy Gamel-Medler, who is gay and African-American, says the situation began in September 2016 at a town council meeting when a trustee and defendant in the protection lawsuit, Meradith Norris, asked what Gamel-Medler would do when his home burned down and the town failed to send the fire trucks after learning he had an African-American son. On May 28, 2017, that’s what happened: his house burned down in an apparent arson attack. According to Gamel-Medler, nothing was done although he filed a police report..
Gamel-Medler claims that the entire time he and his family have lived in Hitchcock, he and his 7-year-old son have been subjected to threats of violence as well as homophobia and racism, including a sign posted outside the post office that read “The town clerk is a f*****g queer.” On one occasion in May while cleaning debris from a local road, Jonita Pauls Jacks approached him and threatened his son after unsuccessfully trying to break into his truck. On this occasion, the deputy sheriff refused to file Gamel-Medler’s complaint, claiming Jacks’ actions and words were protected as free speech.
On the night of the fire, Gamel-Medler called to report a break-in when he heard windows breaking in his garage. After placing the call, he saw a fire in the garage. Despite calling the fire department immediately and despite the proximity of the agency to his home — just a block away — they didn’t arrive until the house had burned to the ground. Neighbors, including the town’s mayor, sat in chairs and watched the fire.
The lawsuit includes charges for assault, battery, destruction of real and personal property, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Federal and state laws protect people against homophobia and racism. If you have been the victim of discrimination, our knowledgeable lawyers can guide you through the process of fighting for your rights.