Gay, small-town Oklahoma clerk claims harassment in lawsuit – McClatchy Washington Bureau

When Randy Gamel and his husband were looking for a retirement home, a six-bedroom fixer upper in the tiny western Oklahoma town of Hitchcock caught their eye.

They bought it in 2014, and Gamel moved to the quiet community from Fort Worth, Texas, to start upgrades. He set out to make himself a part of the agricultural community of a little more than 100 residents. He befriended neighbors, took an interest in town politics and soon became the town clerk.

But it wasn’t long before Gamel began feuding with longtime locals over how the town should be run. Many town leaders and employees are related, and Gamel says he has a reputation for speaking up, vociferously, when he sees a problem. The local sheriff from the nearby county seat of Watonga was soon being called to the town routinely to settle disputes involving Gamel and other townsfolk.

Tension erupted in flames in May when a suspicious fire ripped through Gamel’s home, burning the two-story structure to the ground.

Gamel, 59, suggests in a federal lawsuit filed this week in Oklahoma City that community leaders tried to force him out because he was gay and because he and his partner brought a black child into the nearly all-white town. Others, including a sheriff’s official named in the lawsuit, say it was Gamel’s behavior, not homophobia or racism, that led to problems. A criminal investigation into the fire is pending.

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