Last edited: December 19, 2004

Abortion Opponent Opposes Gay Marriages

Associated Press, August 16, 2003

By Russ Bynum, Associated Press Writer

SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP)—He emerged as one of America’s most militant abortion opponents of the 1980s and early 1990s, jailed dozens of times for blocking clinics and for having a human fetus delivered to Bill Clinton.

But Randall Terry, the founder of Operation Rescue, has been largely quiet for the past five years—until now. With a rally last week in Jacksonville, Fla., and another Saturday in Savannah, the 44-year-old activist hopes to stage a comeback by speaking out against gay marriage.

Terry is calling for Congress to impeach six Supreme Court justices who formed the majority in a June decision throwing out a Texas law banning private, consensual sodomy among homosexuals. Terry believes the 6-3 ruling opens the door for the high court to legalize gay marriage.

“Overnight, you’ll have the court saying ... homosexual marriage is a protected right,” Terry said in a phone interview Friday. “I would call it a blitzkrieg of the homosexual juggernaut. It’s not an erosion. It’s a frontal assault on decency and morality.”

Years have passed since Terry’s leadership of Operation Rescue made him the de facto frontman for the anti-abortion movement. His last high-profile foray was a failed campaign for Congress in New York in 1998.

Terry’s rally in Savannah Saturday was a quiet, uneventful affair, with as many police in attendance as protesters.

“Hold your signs where they can be seen, don’t get in any verbal altercations with anyone, talk quietly with your neighbors,” he told the group of about 15 supporters, who marched around the city’s Wright Square.

A counter demonstration nearby, organized by a local gay activist, attracted nearly four times the crowd.

Some opponents dismiss Terry as a right-wing has-been, as does the current director of Operation Rescue.

Since leaving the anti-abortion group in the 1990s, Terry’s reputation was tarnished when he divorced his wife of 19 years and later married his former assistant. Terry filed for bankruptcy in 1998, trying to avoid paying $1.6 million in court-ordered civil penalties to Planned Parenthood and the National Organization for Women.

“He’s no viable voice,” said the Rev. Flip Benham, national director of Operation Rescue/Operation Save America. “What does he have to say about marriage, the one who divorced his own wife for a trophy wife? Randall Terry is an unrepentant sinner.”

But Terry insists his past marital problems don’t disqualify him from speaking with moral authority.

“The Bible doesn’t condemn divorce, but it does condemn homosexuality,” he said.

As the leader of Operation Rescue, Terry galvanized tens of thousands of abortion opponents using tactics considered extreme by his detractors and often deemed illegal by authorities. Terry estimates he’s been arrested more than 40 times and spent a total of about a year behind bars.

He was first arrested in 1986 after chaining himself to a sink at an abortion clinic in Birmingham, Ala. He later was sentenced to five months in prison for having an Operation Rescue worker present a human fetus to then-candidate Clinton during the 1992 Democratic National Convention.

With the recent sodomy ruling, the Episcopal Church confirming its first openly gay bishop last week and the mainstream success of television shows such as “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, Terry says acceptance of homosexuality is as great a threat to American values as abortion.

But gay-rights activists don’t necessarily see Terry as much of a threat to them. A spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest gay-rights group, said Terry’s not the only one trying to use the debate over gay marriage as a launching pad for a comeback.

“The anti-gay stage is getting rather crowded,” said David Smith. “Randall Terry is such a marginal figure, so discredited and so extreme that if the debate is framed by individuals such as he, I doubt it will resonate.”

Still, Savannah gay activist and innkeeper Kevin Clark felt he needed to organize a counter demonstration about a mile from Terry’s rally.

“We do feel like he is to be recognized as a force, unfortunately,” Clark said. “I hope and pray people will still see him for what he truly is.”

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