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Nashville proposal a ‘building block’ for homosexual rights, pastor says

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Southern Baptist pastor Jerry Sutton voiced his opposition to Nashville’s newest sexual preference bill March 2, writing in a newspaper op-ed piece that the proposal is simply a “building block” for broader legislation.

Sutton, pastor of Nashville’s Two Rivers Baptist Church, expressed his views in The Tennessean newspaper days after two Nashville Metro Council members filed what they called a “modest” proposal to protect homosexuals from discrimination in metro government. The bill would put “sexual orientation” in the same category as race, religion, national origin and sex. It faces the first of three readings March 4.

The two council members — Chris Ferrell and Eileen Beehan — had withdrawn a sweeping bill that would have applied to the entire county, including the religious community, including the Nashville-based Southern Baptist Convention. That former proposal would have applied to housing and private businesses; the new one does not. Ferrell told The Tennessean that he believes he has the votes for passage.

Sutton, in his newspaper commentary, noted, “If this bill is passed, it will establish a legal precedent which once in place becomes the building block for similar and more far-reaching legislation. No doubt, court cases will refer to this as a precedent providing a new basis for ‘legislating from the bench.'”

In fact, The Tennessean editorial board made a similar argument March 3, urging passage of the bill and saying that more legislation will surely follow.

“The refashioned legislation … should be a first step toward more comprehensive measures,” the editorial said. “Opponents of the earlier measure said that it would force religious organizations that officially reject homosexuality to hire gays and lesbians. There should be no such objection to its application to city government only.

“The idea behind the measure has always been to protect citizens from discrimination. It doesn’t give anyone special privileges.”

But Sutton said homosexuality is not the equivalent of such categories as race and gender.

“I urge the council to reject giving a special interest group, which is comprised of practitioners of a certain behavior, a protected status in the community,” he wrote. “These special interest groups based on behavior have often proven, at best, to be vacillating. How soon we forget the sexual preference change of Anne Heche, former partner of Ellen DeGeneres. These claims should never have the merit of race, gender or disability.”

Proponents of the new bill have misinterpreted the reasons behind the opposition, Sutton also wrote.

“[B]oth Ferrell and The Tennessean have oversimplified the reasons for the opposition to the homosexual-protection legislation,” he wrote. “Reasons for opposition were much greater than simply hiring practices in churches.

“Small business owners viewed this intrusion into hiring practices [based upon a behavior] to be outside the jurisdiction of Metro government. The homosexual community is not a legitimate minority needing protection — it is a special interest group lobbying for a position of privilege based upon behavior that the majority of citizens still consider unhealthy and immoral.”

Ferrell told The Tennessean the earlier bill was withdrawn because the votes were not there and because political pressure got to some of the council members. “Clearly, the majority of the council preferred we take a smaller step,” he said. “This is that step.”

Politicians will feel even more pressure, however, to vote against the new bill, Sutton argued.

“[P]olitical pressure will be even more severe with this new proposal,” he wrote. “Why? Because it is clear now that it is an agenda driven by a few and will adversely affect the many. Because there is no legal precedent providing special protection for this special interest group, the Metro Council’s vote will be determined largely, I believe, by the constituents of the council as they voice their will to their elected representatives.”

Sutton said he suspects that “the majority of the council members preferred no step whatsoever.”

Area residents must voice their opposition if the bill is to be defeated, Sutton wrote.

“I urge the citizens of Davidson County to express their convictions to their duly elected (and Election Day accountable) Metro Council representative,” he wrote. “I am a firm believer that our elected officials will see the light when they feel the heat.”

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  • Michael Foust