Tennessee County Backtracks on Jailing Gays
March 19, 2004
By 365Gay.com Newscenter Staff
Nashville, Tennessee—After a
storm of media attention Rhea County retreated Thursday night from a call for
the jailing of gays on charges of “crimes against nature”.
Within hours of a vote Tuesday by county commissioners to
seek approval from the state to lay the charges (story) network television
crews and newspaper reporters from around the country began pouring into the
rural community about miles north of Chattanooga.
It was the most publicity the county had received since
the “Scopes Monkey Trial” in 1925 where high school teacher John T. Scopes
was convicted of teaching evolution and fined $100. The conviction was later
overturned. But, the story later became the award winning movie “Inherit The
On Tuesday Commissioner J-C Fugate, who proposed the
measure made it perfectly clear. He wants to keep “homosexuals out of
here.” And, his fellow commissioners agreed, voting unanimously to direct
County Attorney Gary Fritts to find the best way to enact a local law banning
gays from living in Rhea County.
After a day in the glare of the media spotlight
commissioners were in full retreat and Thursday afternoon, claiming they had
misunderstood the intent of the motion called an emergency meeting. (story)
County attorney Gary Fritts said the initial vote
triggered a “wildfire” of reaction. “I’ve never seen nothing like
this,” he said.
The meeting took only three minutes to rescind the
Fritts 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 following
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