Republican’s objection to making gay minister’s prayer part of official House record prompted public vote on the issue
OKLAHOMA CITY — About 30 clergy and sympathizers demanded Friday, Feb. 13 that 20 lawmakers apologize after they voted against including a prayer by a gay minister in the official House record.
But it is unlikely that any apologies will be offered.
Rev. Scott Jones acknowledged "dear friends, my wonderful parents, and my loving partner and fiance, Michael" before giving the opening prayer when the House convened Thursday, Feb. 12.
This prompted Rep. John Wright, a Broken Arrow Republican, to object to the prayer being made part of the official House record.
Asked if he would apologize, Wright said Friday that too much was being made about the gay minister incident. Although Wright’s objection on the floor prompted a public vote, the lawmaker blamed the media for fanning the political flames by reporting the issue.
Wright said he has not been contacted by anyone regarding an apology.
"If someone wants to talk to me, I have an open door policy," he said.
The lawmaker was supported by 19 colleagues, although 64 members voted for including the prayer. Seventeen members were recorded as absent.
Rev. Robin Meyers of the Mayflower Congregational Church, Oklahoma City, said Friday, "I find what happened not just disturbing but appalling. It was the kind of thing that makes [Oklahoma] an object of shame and butt of jokes."
The United Church of Christ organized the Capitol session Friday. Organizer Karen Spradlin said support for Jones was coming from religious and human rights groups across the country, including Rev. John Thomas, UCC president.
"In a world full of hunger and pain, why are we worrying about a prayer?" asked Chris Moore, pastor of the Norman United Church of Christ.
Jones ministers to a predominantly gay and lesbian congregation.
"I was kind of shocked and flabbergasted" when he learned a vote was being taken, he said.
The minister said he felt very welcomed otherwise, and would probably give the prayer again, if invited.
Ironically, remarks included in the House Journal did not include Jones’s reference to his partner, but only the prayer itself that did not specifically mention gays.
Rabbi Russell Fox of Emanuel Synagogue said, "Once we decide whose prayer is acceptable, where do we draw the line?"
Spokeswoman Jennifer Monies said Friday that House Speaker Chris Benge would have no further comment after making the point Thursday that House members have a right to their views. Benge, a Tulsa Republican, voted with the majority.
Jones had been invited by Rep. Al McAffrey, an Oklahoma City Democrat who has openly said he is gay.