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. However, numerous attempts to get bills passed through the Legislature have been unsuccessful. "Anyone who remains silent is sending the message to the heartland ... to gays and Muslims, you are not welcomed,” Ogden said. "If she doesn't apologize and the speaker does not call for a censure, the message is pretty clear that the speaker is standing with her.” Rep. Al Lindley has worked with Kern, and says he has long suspected she was capable of such views based upon the type of legislation she has proposed. "About once or twice a year, she introduces legislation targeting homosexuals,” Lindley, D-Oklahoma City, said. "But I never thought she would say these things publicly.”
Barring gay booksIn 2005, her first year as a legislator, Kern introduced House Resolution 1039, which urged library officials to restrict children's access to books with homosexual themes. The resolution passed, 81-3. In 2006, Kern introduced House Bill 2158, which would have required the state Board of Libraries to withhold state funding if a public library does not segregate books with homosexual or sexually explicit material from children's sections. The House passed the measure, 60-33. It died in the Senate. Lindley is among a handful of legislators who have spoken out against Kern's remarks. Lindley said he is not surprised, as he thinks there is significant homophobia in the Legislature, and those who are not themselves homophobic are intimidated by a vocal faction who are.