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 in January that were posted on YouTube, Kern says that "the homosexual agenda is destroying this nation, okay, 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, she calls out our fair city of Pittsburgh as an example of a place where gays -- who 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."
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."
Diane Gramley, president of the Pennsylvania chapter of the American Family Association, praised Kern's remarks. "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 that 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.
Read more in the next issue of Pittsburgh City Paper.