Anti-gay Okla. legislator a state embarrassment

Oklahoma is known for its violent storms, but recently, a different kind of storm has created news in Oklahoma and beyond. Her name is Sally Kern.

Kern is a Republican state legislator in the Oklahoma House of Representatives. Her office is in the state’s massive Capitol building, located near downtown Oklahoma City. It was there, in the Oklahoma Capitol’s rotunda, where hundreds of protestors gathered March 18 to ask Kern for an apology.

But, she wasn’t in the building.

In January, Kern met with a group of about 50 Republicans in Oklahoma County and delivered a speech. Just more than three minutes of that speech made it to YouTube, where the clip has drawn more than 1 million views since it was first posted March 7 by the Victory Fund, a group that supports gay and lesbian political candidates.

In the three-minute clip, Kern is heard railing against what she calls “the death knell of this country.” The death knell, according to Kern? Homosexuality.

Kern’s most inflammatory statements about homosexuality, however, came later in her speech when she said, “I honestly think it’s the biggest threat our nation has, even more so than terrorism or Islam.”

First, I’d like to make one thing clear – terrorism and Islam are not synonymous. Second, surely Kern is aware of the irony in her statement; she works just two miles from the Oklahoma City National Memorial, where terrorism caused the deaths of 168 Oklahomans in 1995.

Still, Kern argues that homosexuality is a bigger threat.

Since recorded portions of her speech have appeared on YouTube, Kern has refused to apologize, according to NewsOK.com, the online version of The Oklahoman. Certainly, that is her right. Threatened as it may be by the “death knell” of homosexuality, this country still recognizes Americans’ right to free speech – even Kern’s. But that’s hardly the issue.

At the heart of the matter isn’t that Kern said some inflammatory things. Instead, it’s the group she targeted. If she hadn’t chosen homosexuals, but had instead assaulted another minority group, would there be a controversy? Sure, but it would have been short-lived; Kern would have been handed her walking papers a week ago.

Fortunately, groups like the Victory Fund, and Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays have spoken out against Kern’s hate-filled speech. It was members of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays and other church groups that protested at the Oklahoma Capitol on March 18, asking for Kern to apologize and meet with local gays and Muslims.

Celebrities have also joined the fracas. On March 14, Ellen Degeneres played a clip of Kern’s speech on her daytime talk show and then called the legislator’s office, only to be notified that the office’s voicemail box was full. Comedian Margaret Cho has pledged her support to the Victory Fund, as well.

Even fellow Oklahoma government officials are taking a stand. Jim Roth, who is Oklahoma’s Corporation Commissioner and openly gay, said he took an oath to serve 100 percent of the state’s citizens, according to NewsOK.com, but he said, “I regret that Rep. Kern doesn’t show the same respect for 100 percent of her constituents.”

Instead, Kern is weathering the storm, and remains a legislator in Oklahoma’s House of Representatives, serving District 84 – a large swath of western Oklahoma City.

Sadly, if I still lived in my childhood home, Kern would be representing me.

Kara Peterson is a advertising/public relations graduate student from Fort Worth.