As any lesbian knows, garnering the attention of a celebrity like Ellen DeGeneres is no easy feat. In March, however, a conservative Christian state legislator in Oklahoma managed to do just that. Representative Sally Kern made anti-gay remarks that were captured on audio and uploaded to YouTube by the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, prompting outrage from legions of bold-faced names and ordinary people.
When speaking to a gathering of fellow Republicans in the Oklahoma City area she represents, Representative Kern expressed her opposition to a “homosexual agenda” that, in her view, threatens to undermine civilization, infiltrate democracy and denigrate the purity of children.
“No society that has totally embraced homosexuality has lasted more than, you know, a few decades,” Kern says in a recording that has already been heard nearly a million times on the Internet. She speaks over photo slides inserted to show the harmless gay individuals and allies who are offended by her words.
“It’s the death knell of this country,” continued Kern, a teacher and wife of a Baptist pastor. She also called homosexuality “the biggest threat to our nation, even more so than terrorism, or Islam.”
In response to her recorded statements and the media maelstrom that followed, gay and lesbian advocates have been holding press conferences and rallies, including one that drew nearly 300 people to the state capitol in Oklahoma City on March 18. Attendees there attempted to meet with Kern at her office, but they were told she had left for the day, according to Tulsa World.
Kern defends her actions citing her First Amendment right to express her views.
“A vigorous debate on an issue is not ‘hate speech’—it’s free speech,” she said in a statement. She added, “I have made clear my opposition to the agenda of homosexual activists, but I have never endorsed or supported any hateful action targeting individuals on the other side of this debate and never will. The fact that many gay rights activists claim anyone opposing their agenda is engaging in ‘hate speech’ says more about them than me.”
However, according to the group Oklahomans for Equality, Kern has repeatedly used her office to attempt to deny LGBT Oklahomans the same civil rights she claims for herself. In 2006, for example, she sponsored legislation that would have yanked funding from public libraries that refused to segregate books addressing LGBT themes.
LGBT advocates are calling upon the Oklahoma state legislature to condemn Representative Kern’s comments and immediately pass a state hate crimes law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.