Under the radar
Homosexuality | The national battle over homosexual rights is playing out between pro-family and gay activists in cities and towns in America's heartland
by Les Sillars
Posted 8/30/12, 06:59 pm
The national debate over same-sex "marriage" will center this fall on the platforms set out in the national conventions of the Republicans, currently underway in Tampa, Fla., and the Democrats, set for Charlotte, N.C., next week.
But another, more localized battle over legal recognition of homosexuality is playing out in city halls and town squares in the American heartland, often with pro-family forces trying to reverse decisions by government officials.
In Springfield, Mo., for example, the city council was to vote Monday on whether to prohibit discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodations based on sexual orientation and gender identity or put the proposal to a public vote. Instead, after weeks of passionate debate, the council voted 7-2 to postpone action on the ordinance and appoint a task force.
The Springfield News-Leader reported that Stephanie Perkins, deputy director of PROMO, a homosexual activist network, said the delay was better than putting the issue to a public vote, where it would likely be defeated. The city is home to the national headquarters of the Assemblies of God Church and three Bible colleges.
The Rev. Mark Kiser, president of Reclaiming Missouri for Christ, noted that the council appeared ready to approve the ordinance last month but delayed action after religious opposition emerged.
"It was a huge victory on Monday," Kiser said. "But there is a great chance that this is going to come up again, so we'll have to be ready to do this again."
Similar debates are going on in Salina and Hutchinson, Kan., as well as in Omaha, Neb., which narrowly passed an ordinance in March extending legal protections to homosexual and transgender residents. A tie vote scuttled a similar attempt in October 2010.
In Lincoln, Neb., the groups Family First and the Nebraska Family Council collected more than 10,000 signatures challenging a "fairness amendment" approved by the City Council in May. The petition forced the city either to let the ordinance die or submit it for voter approval. Officials declined to put it on the November ballot or specify when it might appear.
One factor may have been that last week a former star on the University of Nebraska women's basketball team pleaded not guilty after police filed charges against her for allegedly faking an anti-gay attack. Police said she carved a cross onto her chest and slurs onto her arms and abdomen because she felt it would influence debate over the amendment.
Charlie Rogers crawled naked and bleeding from her Lincoln home, screaming for help, on July 22, but on July 18 she outlined in a Facebook posting what investigators believe was her motive for faking the attack, Police Chief Jim Peschong said at a news conference.
"So maybe I am too idealistic, but I believe way deep inside me that we can make things better for everyone. I will be a catalyst. I will do what it takes. I will. Watch me," read Rogers' posting. Peschong added that forensic evidence undermined her story of an attack by three masked men.
Next week homosexual activists, many of whom gathered in Charlotte last weekend for a gay pride festival, will find a welcoming environment at the Democratic National Convention. The party's platform committee recently approved a plank, expected to pass, endorsing "marriage equality" and the repeal of the federal Defense of Marriage Act. The GOP platform calls for a constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
Some homosexual activists considered asking the Democratic Party to move its convention from Charlotte after North Carolina voters approved in May a state constitutional amendment banning homosexual "marriage." They decided instead to show support for the Democratic Party's stand on the issue.
"We're excited that the convention is in Charlotte," said David Webb, one of the gay pride festival's organizers. "But we also want to show that we're united and will continue to push for change."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.