The president of a group supporting gay and lesbian rights said Thursday she is backing off calling for Rep. Sally Kern to resign for her anti-gay remarks after the Oklahoma City lawmaker met with her and others. The Rev. Loyce Newton-Edwards, president of the Oklahoma City chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, said she and two othersmet for nearly 40 minutes Thursday in the lawmaker's state Capitol office. "We think today was a really, really important step,” she said. "She was very cordial. It was a very productive conversation, no shouting, no name calling.” Kern said, "This is what democracy is all about, free exchange of ideas.” She hasn't given any speeches since excerpts of her speech were posted on the YouTube Internet site, but she said she would talk again if asked about the strategy that backers of gay rights are using to defeat conservatives. Kern didn't apologize for comments she made during a speech in January to an Oklahoma City Republican club, Newton-Edwards said. At that meeting Kern called homosexuality "the biggest threat our nation has, even more so than terrorism or Islam.” "We didn't even ask her to,” Newton-Edwards said. "What we said to her was that we were coming in a spirit of healing and reconciliation and we just wanted to talk and speak heart-to-heart.” Kern's House of Representatives district has the largest number of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender constituents in the state, according to a study by the Williams Institute at the University of California-Los Angeles, Newton-Edwards said. "I have not heard them ask her to resign, I have not heard the people of her district ask her to resign,” Newton-Edwards said. "So what I'm willing to do is continue to work with her. If she's willing to possibly have some meetings where we have dialogue and discussion about these issues, I think that is productive. Newton-Edwards, who does not live in Kern's district, said she wants to continue a dialogue with the lawmaker. Kern, a Republican, called her session with Newton-Edwards and others "a nice meeting.” "They didn't change my mind and I didn't change theirs,” she said. "They were very cordial and I was, too. They expressed their viewpoints and I expressed mine. During a rally last week at the Capitol, Newton-Edwards and others called upon Kern to apologize and to meet with gays and Muslims in her district. Newton-Edwards, associate pastor of the Open Arms United Church of Christ, said she invited Kern to attend a meeting of the Oklahoma City chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. Kern said she was unsure if that could be arranged. "You know how many meetings we (in the Legislature) have to go to already,” she said. "I didn't promise them that I would go.” Newton-Edwards said Kern expressed her concerns about homosexuality, but that she had no problem with gays holding elected office. "She didn't back away at all from her views,” said Newton-Edwards. Among the others in the meeting were the Rev. Kathy McCallie, pastor of the Church of the Open Arms, and the Rev. Jim Shields, a retired United Methodist Church minister who lives in Kern's district.
The Rev. Loyce Newton-Edwards
What is PFLAG?Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays is a national nonprofit organization with more than 200,000 members and supporters and more than 500 affiliates in the United States.