LGBTQ Victory Institute, GLAAD Respond to Targeted Harassment of Out Gay Oklahoma Mayor Leading to Resignation

Washington, DC – GLAAD, the world’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) media advocacy organization; and LGBTQ Victory Institute, a global organization working to achieve and sustain equality and ensure the success of openly LGBTQ elected and appointed officials at all levels of government are responding to the news that an out gay mayor in Oklahoma has resigned in response to targeting and harassment.

On Monday, Adam Graham—mayor of The Village, Oklahoma—posted a letter of resignation on Twitter that has since gone viral. In the letter, Graham cites “threats and attacks bordering on violence” as the reason he no longer feels safe to serve as mayor of the city, part of the greater Oklahoma City area. Graham said recent incidents over the past month have included being called an anti-LGBTQ slur and having coffee thrown on him, being followed home, having his tires slashed, and being threatened verbally—all of which followed misinformation about Graham on social media and in local news outlets.

Quote from Adam Graham, former mayor of The Village, Oklahoma:

“I loved my job as city councilor and mayor. It was a pleasure and a privilege serving my community and working alongside my constituents. Plus, I felt good at the work – like it was what I was intended to do. But when the social media attacks began and some bigoted elements of the community felt emboldened to use homophobic slurs, threats and violence against me, I felt legitimately scared for my life. It wasn’t safe for me to shop, drive or walk the dog in the community I was elected to serve. This emboldened hostility must be stopped.”

Quote from Sarah Kate Ellis, President and CEO of GLAAD:

“All over the country we’re seeing a disturbing rise in anti-LGBTQ bias and harassment directed toward LGBTQ people and families and our allies. Teachers, librarians, school board members, and other public servants have become targets for violence fueled by anti-LGBTQ rhetoric spread by elected officials and blasted across social media and right wing media. Media and tech platforms must counter misinformation and enforce their own policies against LGBTQ harassment that emboldens violence in real life. LGBTQ Americans need federal protections like the Equality Act to protect every LGBTQ American from discrimination no matter where they live. This is a national problem that needs national solutions.”

Quote from Elliot Imse, Executive Director of LGBTQ Victory Institute:

“Bigoted leaders across the country are stoking the flames of anti-LGBTQ hate that have cascading – and dangerous – consequences for LGBTQ elected officials who are on the front lines defending our rights and freedoms. We are devastated and angry that Mayor Graham faced harassment and physical threats to the point he will no longer serve in public office. No elected leader should ever fear for their physical safety, yet the threats are growing for LGBTQ people, people of color and other marginalized people – and the consequences for our democracy are enormous. It is our responsibility to come together as a community and support LGBTQ leaders during this dark time, ensuring they are able to safely serve the communities they love.”

Only 0.2% of elected officials nationally are LGBTQ. There are currently only six out LGBTQ elected officials in Oklahoma.

GLAAD’s 2022 Accelerating Acceptance report found that 7 in 10 LGBTQ Americans reported increased discrimination over the last year and in their daily lives – including in the workplace, on social media, and public accommodations. GLAAD’s 2022 Social Media Safety Index found that social media platforms are not adequately enforcing policies to protect LGBTQ users, with 40% of users reporting they do not feel safe online from discrimination and harassment.

At least 225 anti-LGBTQ state bills have been filed so far this year, according to Freedom For All Americans, including 15 in Oklahoma. Bills passed into law in Oklahoma include bans on transgender and nonbinary youth from participating in school sports, a ban on transgender and nonbinary youth using school restrooms that match their gender, and a ban on nonbinary gender markers on birth certificates.

Lawmakers across the country are censoring conversations about LGBTQ people in school, banning LGBTQ-inclusive books, and blocking transgender youth from evidence-based, lifesaving healthcare and school activities like sports. In some states, such as Oklahoma’s bordering states Arkansas and Texas, families are fleeing longtime homes out of concerns for the safety of their LGBTQ children.

Rising anti-LGBTQ sentiment and misinformation, amplified by high-profile media figures such as Fox News’ Tucker Carlson and elected officials like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, Texas Governor Greg Abbott, and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, have emboldened threats and attacks on teachers, librarians, and other public servants regardless of whether they are members of the LGBTQ community. On June 10, GLAAD responded to an uptick in incidents targeting drag queen story hours. On June 24, the American Library Association released a statement that condemned an “alarming increase in acts of aggression toward library workers and patrons” nationwide. On July 12, the president of the Corpus Christi, Texas branch of the American Federation of Teachers reported that anti-LGBTQ activists shot at her home after she handed out books with LGBTQ characters at an LGBTQ Pride event.

Resources for media covering rising anti-LGBTQ sentiment:

  • The GLAAD Accountability Project monitors and documents individual public figures and groups using their platforms to spread misinformation and false rhetoric against LGBTQ people, youth, and allies
  • GLAAD’s guide to reporting on anti-LGBTQ state legislation
  • GLAAD’s guide to reporting on book bans and school censorship

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About GLAAD: GLAAD rewrites the script for LGBTQ acceptance. As a dynamic media force, GLAAD tackles tough issues to shape the narrative and provoke dialogue that leads to cultural change. GLAAD protects all that has been accomplished and creates a world where everyone can live the life they love. For more information, please visit www.glaad.org or connect with GLAAD on Facebook and Twitter.

About Victory Institute: LGBTQ Victory Institute works to achieve and sustain global equality through leadership development, training, and convening to increase the number, expand the diversity, and ensure the success of openly LGBTQ elected and appointed officials at all levels of government. victoryinstitute.org