Bruce Kraus, Pittsburgh's first openly gay councilor, has been on council less than three months. But he has a lot more sway than he may have realized.
Or so says Oklahoma state Rep. Sally Kern.
By now, almost everyone has heard, or heard about, her anti-gay rant. In remarks Kern made that were posted on YouTube, Kern says that "the homosexual agenda is destroying this nation, OK, it's just a fact. Not all lifestyles are equal, just like not all religions are equal."
During the diatribe, which Kern has said were taken from a series of public appearances in January, she calls out our fair city of Pittsburgh as an example of a place where gays -- whom Kern calls "the biggest threat that our nation has, even more so than terrorism or Islam, which I think is a big threat" -- are taking over.
"Gays are infiltrating city councils," Kern says. "Have you heard that the city council of Eureka Springs is controlled by gays? There are others: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania."
Pittsburgh council president, Doug Shields, wrote to Kern demanding an apology and her resignation: "Your remarks, whether you know it or not, provided an incredible display of ignorance and intolerance. ... I find no place at the table for a public policy maker who would espouse hate, discrimination and bigotry. ... As the president of the city council of Pittsburgh, I require an apology from you for your senseless, mean-spirited attack on one of my colleagues and the council as a whole."
Kern told the The Oklahoman that "I said nothing that was not true, I said nothing out of hate and I don't believe my colleagues will censure me."
Diane Gramley, president of the Pennsylvania chapter of the American Family Association, praised Kern's remarks. The AFA is a nonprofit activist group that "stands for traditional family values," according to its Web site. The group also lists as one of its issues "the Homosexual Agenda," and published "A guide to help combat the destructive effects of homosexuality both socially and personally."
"It doesn't concern her that homosexuals may be voted in," says Gramley. "She's concerned about them using their position as a bully pulpit for the normalization of homosexuality. My concern is not that homosexuals are voted into public office; it's that they may use that position of power to further the homosexual agenda."
Gramley says she construed Kern's mention of Pittsburgh not as an attack on Kraus specifically, but as a slap at council for passing a resolution in support of state House Bill 1400. The measure would add sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes under the state's Human Relations Act, which bars discrimination on the basis of race and other factors.
"I think that what Mrs. Kern said is being blown way out of proportion and we are seeing the intolerance of the people who are calling the loudest for tolerance," Gramley says.
Kern didn't specifically mention Kraus; however, her remarks were clearly aimed at homosexuals in public office, and did not mention House Bill 1400. She said specifically that "gays are infiltrating city councils," "they are winning elections," and that certain city councils are "controlled by gays."
Kraus himself was unavailable for comment on Kern's rant, but released a brief statement in response to Kern's remarks: "Hate speech is not free speech. Words matter. They have consequences and inspire actions. Hate speech feeds the cancer of ignorance, intolerance and bigotry. It diminishes us all and provides 'justification' to the bigot to react with violence against the physical, emotional and spiritual well-being of those they see as different from themselves."
Gramley called the backlash against Kern "an example of political correctness.
"I find it interesting that Mrs. Kern can make a statement like that and be blacklisted," Gramley says. "It's OK for homosexuals to make disparaging remarks but it's not OK for a state legislator or someone else in the public eye to speak the truth?"