The county that was the site of the Scopes "Monkey Trial" over the teaching of evolution is asking lawmakers to amend state law so the county can charge homosexuals with crimes against nature.
The Rhea County commissioners approved the request 8-0 Tuesday.
Commissioner J.C. Fugate, who introduced the measure, also asked the county attorney to find a way to enact an ordinance banning homosexuals from living in the county.
"We need to keep them out of here," Fugate said.
This was on Tuesday. But today the commissioners did a complete turnaround:
Rhea County commissioners took about three minutes to retreat from a request to amend state law so the county can charge homosexuals with crimes against nature. The Tuesday measure passed 8-0.
County attorney Gary Fritts said the initial vote triggered a "wildfire" of reaction. "I've never seen nothing like this," he said Thursday.
But Fritts said it was all a misunderstanding.
"They wanted to send a message to our (state) representative and senator that Rhea County supports the ban on same-sex marriage," he said. "Same-sex marriage is what it was all about. It was to stop people from coming here and getting married and living in Rhea County."
Not that the issue of banning homosexuals didn't arise.
"I'm not saying it wasn't discussed," Fritts said. "Sometimes you had five or six people talking."
Fritts said he advised the commissioners they cannot ban homosexuals or make them subject to criminal charges. The U.S. Supreme Court in 2003 struck down Texas' sodomy laws as a violation of adults' privacy.
Fritts said he doesn't believe the issue will come up again.
"I think they got all the publicity they need about it," he said.
So gays and lesbians won't be banned from Rhea County, after all. Before you expel that breath you've held in suspense, consider that Scopes County isn't really any one place at all but rather the mental homeland of a certain way of thinking, and there are other news from the same area:
Gay and lesbians in the entire federal workforce have had their job protections officially removed by the office of Special Counsel. The new Special Counsel, Scott Bloch, says his interpretation of a 1978 law intended to protect employees and job applicants from adverse personnel actions is that gay and lesbian workers are not covered.
Bloch said that the while a gay employee would have no recourse for being fired or demoted for being gay, that same worker could not be fired for attending a gay Pride event.
In his interpretation, Bloch is making a distinction between one's conduct as a gay or lesbian and one's status as a gay or lesbian.
"People confuse conduct and sexual orientation as the same thing, and I don't think they are," Bloch said in an interview with Federal Times, a publication for government employees.
Bloch said gays, lesbians and bisexuals cannot be covered as a protected class because they are not protected under the nation's civil rights laws.
My head aches. Let me see if I got this right: If I were a sexually abstinent lesbian or gay civil servant, I could be fired because of this without any protection from civil rights laws, but if I were a sexually active lesbian or gay the laws would protect me? No, this can't possibly be correct; the government being all hot for abstinence. What does it mean then? Quiet gays and lesbians can be fired at will, whereas noisy and belligerent ones will be protected? What about the "Don't Ask. Don't Tell" policies in that case? I give up. That's one of the things that tends to happen in Scopes County.