Last edited: March 08, 2005

Local Reaction Mixed on Gay Sex Ruling

Knoxville News Sentinel, June 27, 2003

By Lola Alapo,

Knoxville area activists and religious leaders Thursday expressed opposite reactions to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling striking down a ban on gay sex in Texas.

“I think it’s a great landmark civil rights decision because it goes straight to the heart of the Bill of Rights and privacy,” said Suzanne Pharr, executive director of the Highlander Research and Education Center, an organization in New Market that addresses social, environmental and economic issues facing the people of the South and Appalachia.

Pharr said she hoped the decision would enable those in the lesbian and gay communities to feel freer to express themselves and have “a greater sense of their humanity.”

The Rev. Bob Galloway, pastor of Metropolitan Community Church in West Knoxville, said the ruling came at an opportune moment. The church offers a special outreach to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities.

“It’s about time, since Tennessee’s already done it,” Galloway said. “It’ll probably affect the 13 other states” with sodomy laws, he said.

Galloway said a member of his congregation was instrumental in removing the state’s sodomy law. The Tennessee law was struck down in 1996.

Opponents, however, said the Supreme Court’s decision shows the decline in the moral order of society.

“It’s just as immoral today as it was before (the Supreme Court) ruled on it,” said Xavier Mankel, vicar general of the Diocese of Knoxville and pastor of Holy Ghost Catholic Church.

Mankel said the ruling was a sign of the lessening of moral values.

“It’s a breakdown of family,” Mankel said. “That’s what is so devastating about it.”

The Rev. Bob Bevington, senior pastor of the Knoxville Baptist Tabernacle on Magnolia Avenue, an independent Baptist church, said the court’s ruling is anti-biblical and an attack on the Christian faith.

“The Bible teaches that sodomy is unnatural,” he said.

“Our forefathers gave us Christian ethics but we’ve just moved farther and farther away from that,” he said. “We’ve come a long way but we haven’t gone the right way.”

  • Lola Alapo may be reached at 865-342-6376.

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