Last edited: June 20, 2004

Tennessee County That Wanted to Jail Gays Takes up New Anti-Gay Measure, June 14, 2004

By Newscenter Staff

Dayton, Tennessee—A rural Tennessee County that passed legislation calling for gays to be jailed and then rescinded it following a national outcry is now looking at new anti-gay legislation.

Rhea County commissioners are now working on a resolution that would declare their support for the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.

Tennessee has a so-called Defense of Marriage law that has been on the books for several years, and this November voters will be asked to enshrine that in the state constitution.

The authors of the Rhea County declaration of support, Commissioners J-C Fugate and Dennis Tumlin, say there’s no time like the present to show the county’s support for the measure.

Fugate was the author of the infamous bid to jail gays. He says that it was never his intent to throw gays in jail, but that all he wanted to do originally was support the state same-sex marriage ban.

He blames “miscommunication” for the wording of the measure that passed unanimously in March and then was rescinded a week later.

Fugate and Tumlin are not taking any chances this time. The new ordinance is in writing, a practice adopted only after the outcry that followed the gay ban fiasco, and it will be put to a “workshop” so there is no confusion.

“After the last incident, we don’t want to put anything hastily on the agenda,” commissioner Dennis Tumlin said.

The resolution urges legislators to uphold Tennessee’s definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman. It also requests that current Tennessee law banning same-sex marriage be adopted as amendments to the state and U.S. constitutions.

Following the March ban on gays in the county the international media descended on the community, making it a laughing stock across the country. The last time Rhea County had so much publicity was in 1925 for the famous Scopes Monkey Trial. High school teacher John T. Scopes was convicted of teaching evolution and fined $100. The conviction was later overturned and became a film, “Inherit The Wind”.

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