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Nashville called key battleground on national homosexual-rights agenda

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–It’s not a stretch to say that Nashville, Tenn., is a key battleground for the homosexual-rights movement in America.

What some consider the heart of the Bible belt — it has more churches per capita than any other U.S. city — is currently in the midst of a battle over a proposal to prohibit employment discrimination based on “sexual orientation” covering all metro departments, including the public schools.

The fact that the battle is taking place in a conservative region, in the center of the South, has not been lost on observers.

“Maybe they have chosen the Bible belt because they know that one of the last bastions of pro-family conservatism in this country is the South,” Bill Maier, a vice president and psychologist in residence for Focus on the Family, told Baptist Press. “If you can attack the South … you have achieved your goal.”

The homosexual community long ago won similar battles out West and in the Northeast, having since turned their sights toward bigger goals. But Nashville has no protections based on sexual preference.

As the thinking of opponents goes, if the bill passes, more wide-sweeping legislation will follow.

“This is only a prelude of things to come, so we need to stop it now,” one of the bill’s opponents, councilwoman Carolyn Baldwin Tucker, said.

Supporters already failed once this year in broadening the bill’s reach when they withdrew a city-wide proposal covering housing and employment discrimination. It would have covered religious organizations, including the Southern Baptist Convention, whose statement of belief, the Baptist Faith and Message, includes homosexuality in a list of sexual sins.

“Obviously, I thought the city should take a bigger step,” one of the bill’s cosponsors, Chris Ferrell, told Baptist Press. “[But] I never intended for it to apply to religious institutions.”

But other council members may not share Ferrell’s sentiment. Baptist Press asked councilman Melvin Black if he would have favored an exemption in the previous bill for religious organizations. He did not give a direct answer, but said, “We need to remove discrimination if it’s in the walls of a church, the walls of a school or the workplace.”

Such talk has conservatives taking notice. One prominent pro-family lawyer, Alan Sears, told Baptist Press that it’s time for Christians to “wake up.”

“This is a foot-in-the-door ordinance, as inane as it might appear,” said Sears, who is president of the Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian legal organization that works to protect traditional family values.

Sears believes Nashville is in step one of a three-step strategy homosexual activists apply nationwide. In step one, employees ask for anti-discrimination protection. In step two, they ask for domestic-partner benefits. In step three they push further, asking for such things as hate-crimes laws and employee sensitivity training sessions.

The pattern can be seen in cities nationwide. Colorado Springs, Colo., passed an anti-discrimination bill in 1996, and last year passed a bill requiring domestic-partner benefits. Phoenix passed an anti-discrimination bill in 1992, a domestic-partner bill in 2000. Bloomington, Ind., passed an anti-discrimination bill in 1993, a domestic-partner bill in 1997.

Each step is a natural progression from the previous step, said Sears, who is the coauthor of a forthcoming book on the issue, “The Homosexual Agenda: Exposing the Principal Threat to Religious Freedom Today.” It is being published by Broadman & Holman, the trade books arm of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

“They say, ‘All we’re asking you to do to is make a policy statement that we oppose discrimination,'” he said. “They open the door to everything, because they now recognize that homosexual behavior has a basis in law for special recognition and special protection.

“… This ordinance may look like a small thing, but it’s a gigantic step for the government to say that we’re going to grant legal protections and preferences to people based upon how they choose to have sex.”

When it comes to employment, Eugene, Ore., is one of the more homosexual-friendly cities in America. Eugene has an exemption for churches and religious exemptions, although it only covers “positions that are substantially related to the church’s religious purposes” such as “ministers and religious education teachers,” according to the city’s website. For instance, a job opening for a janitor would have to be open to homosexuals.

Once a non-discrimination law is passed, Sears emphasized: “Everything that happens that is not consistent with that anti-discrimination statement is an act of discrimination.”

The Nashville bill’s language can lead to some awkward situations for both children and parents, he said. The current bill defines “sexual orientation” as homosexuality, bisexuality or heterosexuality.

“You might have a male teacher that decides to wear panty hose and a dress and wear lipstick to class,” Sears said. “You can get into some incredibly bizarre situations where you’re exposing children of tender years to this kind of behavior.”

Such a situation would be hard to stop when faced with a bill protecting “bisexuals,” he noted.

“If you pass an ordinance saying you will not discriminate based on sexual orientation, and he says, ‘My orientation is bisexual,’ … Tell me what you have in your employment code that’s going to trump that,” Sears stated.

He pointed to cases nationwide involving transsexuals (people who change their sex organs via surgery). In recent years, teachers in Illinois and New York have undergone sex-change operations and kept their jobs. Over summer, a Mister can become “Misses.”

While the Nashville proposal doesn’t cover transsexuals, it’s the next logical step, Sears said, adding that transsexuals could come to the council meeting and say, “Why are you leaving us with discrimination?”

But councilman Black, whose term expires this year, doubts that the next council will take another step.

“I don’t think that issue would be one they would push for in any other form,” he said. “If you believe in human rights,” then the bill should pass.

Black — who noted that he does not “condone the behavior” of homosexuals — argued that the school system already has homosexual teachers and that the current proposal would simply give them job security.

“The issue is jobs, and we have gay people who have successfully worked with kids in every facet of life — in our school system, in our government, in our hospitals, in our churches,” he said.

The effect on school systems worries Focus on the Family’s Maier. A psychologist, he studies homosexual behavior’s effect on individuals.

“We have to look at how children learn,” he said. “We know that one of the main ways children learn is by modeling adult behavior.

“… The average American, and certainly the average Christian, is not aware of this agenda. And children are the pawn. If they can change the hearts and minds of America’s children on this issue, they have basically won the battle.”

But schools aren’t the only target, Sears said. Public housing — which the withdrawn Nashville bill covered — is a big battleground. The housing ordinance in Eugene, Ore., covers apartments as small as two units. A Christian landlord there would be required to rent a unit to a homosexual couple — even if the landlord was morally opposed to homosexuality.

Sears said that nationwide, he has seen city codes with an even narrower focus.

“They’re being told they cannot exclude people from [apartments in] their actual homes who are engaged in sexual behavior outside of marriage,” he said. “That’s how wide these rules are being applied.”

If the bill passes, other similar bills will follow, a prominent Nashville pastor believes.

“If the camel gets its nose under the tent, the whole camel’s coming in the tent,” said Two Rivers Baptist Church pastor Jerry Sutton, a vocal opponent. “The homosexual community will … coerce and use the court system” to fight for “not just tolerance, but a protected status.”

While supporters liken the issue to protecting minorities or religious groups, two African American council members, Black and Tucker, are on opposite sides of the issue.

“I personally experienced discrimination,” Black said. “… Nobody should be discriminated against.”

Tucker, though, said she is offended by comparisons between homosexuality and race.

“Nobody knows what a person’s sexual orientation is unless you tell them or demonstrate it,” she said. “You can look at a person and tell if they’re black or white. Sexual orientation is not one. It’s a choice. Persons do not have the choice of male or female, or of race. That’s the bottom line.”
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: COUNCILWOMAN’S CONCERN.

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  • Michael Foust