Tennessee County Retreats From Gay Ban
Associated Press, March 19,
By Bill Poovey
DAYTON, Tenn.—The county that was
the site of the Scopes “Monkey Trial” over the teaching of evolution
Thursday reversed its call to ban homosexuals.
Rhea County commissioners took about three minutes to
retreat from a request to amend state law so the county can charge homosexuals
with crimes against nature. The Tuesday measure passed 8-0.
County attorney Gary Fritts said the initial vote
triggered a “wildfire” of reaction. “I’ve never seen nothing like
this,” he said Thursday.
But Fritts said it was all a misunderstanding.
“They wanted to send a message to our (state)
representative and senator that Rhea County supports the ban on same-sex
marriage,” he said. “Same-sex marriage is what it was all about. It was to
stop people from coming here and getting married and living in Rhea County.”
Not that the issue of banning homosexuals didn’t arise.
“I’m not saying it wasn’t discussed,” Fritts
said. “Sometimes you had five or six people talking.”
Fritts said he advised the commissioners they cannot ban
homosexuals or make them subject to criminal charges. The U.S. Supreme Court
in 2003 struck down Texas’ sodomy laws as a violation of adults’ privacy.
Fritts said he doesn’t believe the issue will come up
“I think they got all the publicity they need about
it,” he said.
All of the commissioners declined to comment Thursday.
Social worker Esther Jackson, 24—one of 300 people who
attended Thursday’s meeting—held a sign reading: “Breed Love, Not
“It’s just ignorance is all,” she said of
But 12-year-old Caitlin Kinney, attending the meeting
with her mother, said she supported the commissioners’ initial vote.
“I think they should go further, try to see if they can
ban them,” she said. “It’s not a Christian thing.”
The politically conservative county holds an annual
festival commemorating the 1925 trial at which high school teacher John T.
Scopes was convicted of teaching evolution. The verdict was reversed on a
technicality, and the trial became the subject of the play and movie
“Inherit the Wind.”
[Home] [News] [Tennessee]