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Do comments create environment of hate?

By Devona Walker Modified: March 12, 2008 at 12:18 am •  Published: March 12, 2008
State Rep. Sally Kern, under fire for her comments about gays being a bigger threat than terrorists, was admonished Tuesday by a group of about 30 people representing roughly a dozen faith-based and gay community groups.

"Sally Kern's comments were not only ignorant but very hurtful,” said Jerre Fine, a gay airman who served in the U.S. Air Force in Afghanistan. "We need protection from our enemies abroad. We also need protection from within, from people like Sally Kern.”

In the roughly three-minute recording of Kern at a meeting among fellow Republicans, she claimed that gays were trying to indoctrinate 2-year-olds through the school system; that they had infiltrated city councils; that no society tolerating homosexuality has ever lasted more than a few decades and that gays, even more so than terrorists, were the biggest threat facing America. The recording has been heard by more than half a million people on the Internet, according to the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, which posted it on its Web site.

At Tuesday's news conference, held at the Church of the Open Arms in Oklahoma City, many commented that it was just three months ago that they had another occasion to gather there.

In the days following the killing of Stephen Domer, a 62-year-old gay man, many of the same faces had come together to urge passage of hate-crime legislation that would include sexual orientation protections.

Domer allegedly was killed by the member of a white supremacist group. Kern's critics say her actions have helped create an environment of hate, where crimes such as Domer's killing are perpetuated.

"These words are hateful words and can result in hateful actions. This is about responsibility and accountability for words, not freedom of expression,” said Richard Ogden, chairman of Oklahoma City-based Cimarron Alliance. Ogden went on to admonish House Speaker Chris Benge, R-Tulsa, for not censuring Kern for her comments. He also lashed out at the Oklahoma Legislature in general for burying four hate crime proposals in subcommittees, and not allowing them to be debated and voted upon.

Ogden said his group conducted a poll in 2006 that indicated that more than 70 percent of Oklahomans polled believed hate crime laws should include protections for people based on sexual orientation. View a map of Oklahoma House District 84 Open letter to Rep. Kern from Chuck Wolfe, The Gay &...

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