Last edited: March 27, 2004

Tennessee County Wants to Ban Gays, March 17, 2004

By 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 applauded.

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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