Mixing Legislators, Leviticus
Pushing Gay Rights Legislation in Jesse Helms Hometown
Raleigh News & Observer,
March 24, 1999
Box 191, Raleigh, NC 27602
Rob Christensen: Mixing legislators, Leviticus
If you looked up "long shot" in the dictionary, you might find this
definition: pushing gay rights legislation in Jesse Helms hometown.
But that didnt deter more than 100 people, including a former Democratic
legislator and a current Republican judge, from gathering in front of the Legislative
Building on Tuesday to voice their support for new laws designed to protect homosexuals
Gay groups are lobbying to expand the states anti-hate crime law to include
offenses based on sexual orientation. Twenty-one states already offer such protection.
The groups also want to join the 32 other states that have repealed anti- sodomy laws.
Similar bills introduced in the 1993 and 1997 sessions never made it out of committee.
Supporters of repeal note that heterosexuals also can be guilty of sodomy under North
Carolina law -- witness the recent Bill and Monica soap opera.
"The fact is, the majority of the 170 people [legislators] in here have probably
violated it and their children most certainly have," Superior Court Judge Ray Warren,
a Charlotte Republican who is gay, told the crowd.
Well, maybe. But the legislature, for the most part, looks to me more like the
At one point the rally was interrupted by a spectator yelling about people burning in
hell. He was hustled off by security.
He has read his Bible, sort of. Leviticus does say that its an abomination for a
man to sleep with another man and that homosexuals should be put to death. But Leviticus
also says its an abomination to eat shellfish and you dont see religious
cranks harassing customers coming out of the 42nd Street Oyster Bar yelling: "REPENT
OF YOUR OYSTERS ROCKEFELLER OR YOULL BURN IN HELL."
People have always interpreted the Bible to suit their own prejudices. (Leviticus also
calls for the death of adulterers and people who curse their parents, but you dont
hear much about that.)
Homosexuality is still one of those politically radioactive issues that most
politicians dont want to touch, which is why the campaign to decriminalize sodomy is
likely to be a marathon rather than a sprint.
It takes guts to even introduce the legislation as Sen. Ellie Kinnaird of
Carrboro and Rep. Paul Luebke of Durham plan to do.
Republican conservatives, in particular, have used homosexuality as a political symbol
for social trends that trouble many people from the high rate of divorces to
out-of-wedlock births, although these are clearly boy-girl problems.
But homosexuality is not really a partisan issue.
Thirty-four percent of gays voted Republican in the last election, according to Andrew
Sullivan, a gay, conservative British journalist, who spoke Monday at N.C. State
Nor, said Sullivan, is there really a gay agenda. Most gays just want to live their
lives more or less like everyone else. Many of the rights sought by gays in recent years
have reflected quite conservative impulses wanting to serve ones country,
wanting to serve God, and wanting to share ones life with someone in a legal union.
"Our personal lives should be our personal business alone," said former state
Rep. Sharon Thompson of Durham, who is gay. "Government has no place in our bedrooms
or our family rooms."
Rob Christensen can be reached at 829-4532 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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