Last edited: December 08, 2004

East Tennessee County Commission Votes to Target Gays

WBIR TV, Knoxville, TN

Rhea County commissioners unanimously passed a motion on Tuesday asking its state representatives to introduce legislation that would allow the county to charge homosexuals with crimes against nature.

The issue was not on the Commission’s agenda, but some members of the audience applauded when a commissioner brought it up.

The move, which is gaining national media attention, comes despite the fact that anti-sodomy laws were declared to be unconstitutional in a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June, 2003.

In the case of Lawrence & Garner v. State of Texas, the nation’s highest court ruled 6-3 that sodomy laws are unconstitutional and unenforceable when applied to consenting adults in a private, non-commercial setting.

The Rhea County Courthouse in Dayton, site of the famed “Scopes Monkey Trial,” is an international tourist attraction. In 1925, high school teacher John T. Scopes was convicted of teaching evolution and fined $100. The conviction was later overturned.

For Commissioner J.C. Fugate, the issue of homosexuality is simple. He wants to keep homosexuals, “out of here.”

Fugate says he offered the motion because of recent events concerning gay marriage throughout the nation.

There was little discussion before the 8-0 vote in favor of the measure. Commissioner Jimmy Barnes absent.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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