An Oklahoma gay man claims in a federal
civil rights lawsuit filed last week that officials in his small town
conspired to run him and his family out of town.
Nine defendants are named in the
lawsuit, including Rick Edsall, mayor of Hitchcock, Tony Almaguer,
sheriff of Blaine County, and David Robertson, undersheriff of Blaine
Randy Gamel-Medler, his husband and
their 7-year-old adopted African-American son moved to Hitchcock
(population 121, according to the 2010 census) in August of last
year. Roughly a month later, Gamel-Medler, the town clerk, was
threatened by a town trustee at a town council meeting after he
learned that Gamel-Medler, a white man, had a son who is
African-American, according to the complaint. “What's going to
happen when your house burns down and we don't send out the fire
trucks?” Meradith Norris, a defendant in the lawsuit, asked. Town
officials ignored the police report Gamel-Medler filed.
In May, Gamel-Medler was assaulted by
defendant Jonita Pauls Jacks, who called him a “fucking queer”
and threatened his son, saying that she was going to grab his son and
“rip his nigger head off and shit down his throat.” The town
deputy sheriff refused to allow Gamel-Medler to file a police report
and chalked up the incident to free speech.
Other incidents, including the posting
of a sign outside the post office stating that “the town clerk is a
fucking queer,” occurred over the next several weeks.
On May 28, the complaint describes an
incident in which Gamel-Medler called the sheriff's office to report
a burglary after he heard glass breaking in his garage. He then
called the fire department to report a fire in his garage. But the
fire department, which is located one block from Gamel-Medler's
house, failed to arrive in time to save his home. As his house
burned, four of the defendants, including Mayor Edsall, looked on,
according to the complaint.
Gamel-Medler quit his job and moved his
family out of Hitchcock.
In an interview with News9.com, Edsall
denied the charges, saying that the fire department reached
Gamel-Medler's house in six minutes and stating that he pitched in to
put out the fire.
In a statement released over the
weekend by Freedom Oklahoma, a group that supports LGBT rights,
Gamel-Medler said that he and his family “were terrorized; murder
threats were made against our seven-year-old African-American son.
Town officials conspired to run us out of office, all while local law
enforcement ignored our pleas for help. We are now left with the
last 27 years of our life literally erased. What do we do now?”
In his lawsuit, Gamel-Medler is asking
for compensation plus punitive damages.