Tennessee County Wants to Ban Gays
March 17, 2004
By 365Gay.com Newscenter Staff
Nashville, Tennessee—Rhea County,
about 30 miles north of Chattanooga, want the state to give it the power to
arrest gays for “crimes against nature”.
In a unanimous vote the county commissioners passed a
motion asking its state representatives to introduce legislation to allow it
to lay the charges. For Commissioner J-C Fugate, the issue is simple. He wants
to keep “homosexuals out of here.”
Rhea County is famous as the scene of the “Scopes
Monkey Trial”. In 1925, high school teacher John T. Scopes was convicted of
teaching evolution and fined $100. The conviction was later overturned.
There was little discussion about Fugate’s motion
before the 8-to-0 vote in favor of the measure. Three audience members who
spoke before Fugate’s motion advocated prayer in schools and denounced
drinking alcohol and county zoning.
When the motion passed some people in the audience
Fugate said all the “fuss over homosexual marriage”
had made him and others in the community angry
Fugate also proposed a motion that would direct County
Attorney Gary Fritts to find the best way to enact a local law banning gays
from living in Rhea County. Commissioners asked Fritts to bring a resolution
requesting the ban to next month’s commission meeting for another vote.
It is doubtful either measure would stand up in court.
Last year the U.S. Supreme Court struck down sodomy laws and ruled there is a
constitutionally protected right to adults’ private sexual conduct.
Matt Nevels, president of the Chattanooga chapter of
Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, said he knows of of a number
of gays and their parents who live in Rhea County.
“That is the most farfetched idea put forth by any kind
of public official,” Nevels said. “I’m outraged.”
Rhea County holds an annual festival commemorating the
Scopes Trial. The school system teaches Creativism as a viable alternative to
evolution. In 2002, a federal judge ruled unconstitutional the Rhea County
school board’s Bible Education Ministry, a class taught in the public
schools by students from a Christian college.
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