Washington County anti-gay marriage resolution falls short

The Washington County Commission fell one vote short of approving a resolution opposing same-sex marriage early today, reports the Johnson City Press.

Commissioner Forrest Boreing attributed the failure to opposition from the East Tennessee State University community.

“It was split by (East Tennessee State University),” Boreing said after the 7-hour meeting. “There are so many people from that school that showed up tonight. Most of the colleges do have more liberal attitudes, but that makes for good discussions.”

The 12-11 vote to approve the resolution failed because supporters needed 13 to capture a majority of the 25-seat County Commission. (It) came nearly 6.5 hours into the meeting, after a nearly hour-long discussion by commissioners on a measure to drop the resolution from the agenda and more than three hours of public comments.

Hundreds packed five courtrooms of the George Jaynes Justice Center and spilled out into upstairs and downstairs foyers, watching the 57 public speakers and the Commission’s debate on projection televisions specially wired for the occasion.

Holding a worn Bible in his outstretched hands, Jonesborough Baptist Church Pastor Randy Robbins quoted scripture that aroused a reaction from those who turned out to oppose the resolution.

“’Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness and covetousness,’” Robbins said, skipping around the first chapter of Romans. … “’Without understanding, without natural affection’ — it’s not natural — ’Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.’”

Lori Starnes, who spoke an hour-and-a-half later, said she was hurt by comments like those made by Robbins.

“I sat out in the hallway waiting for my time to speak across from ministers who told me I should be dead,” Starnes, a gay woman, said. “I was told in the hallway that I was going to burn in hell. It’s amazing to me that they would let you preach that kind of hatred and sow that kind of anger.”

Boreing’s resolution, which he requested in a Jan. 7 Public Safety Committee meeting, voiced opposition to the landmark 5-4 decision by the Supreme Court in Obergefell v. Hodges extending a right to mary to same-sex couples, and asked state legislators to do everything within their powers to nullify the high court’s ruling and enforce the state constitution’s definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman.

Note: Perhaps related on the ETSU front, here’s an excerpt from a story that ran a day earlier in the Johnson City Press.

East Tennessee State University’s Women’s Studies program — led by director Dr. Phyllis Thompson and assistant director Dr. Hilary Malatino — are rolling out a “Queer in Appalachia” speaker series that will take place through March and April.

ETSU storytelling professor Delanna Reed will speak on March 2, followed by alumna and storyteller Ash-Lee Woodard on March 18, graduate student Rachel Garringer on April 8 and ETSU professor Jeff Mann on speak April 14. Each speaker well represents the mission of this series, Malatino said.

“All of the people we’ve chosen are born and raised here and they plan to stay here for life,” Malatino said. “They’ll help in disrupting stereotypes and all come from diverse backgrounds.”

Sparking political engagement through conversation is the goal of Malatino, the event’s founder. Many people in the LGBTQ community here tend to want to move away to places that are considered more progressive and welcoming to them, but Malatino said there’s a significant portion of this population that is ready and willing to stick around and hoping to change conservative minds, rather than moving away from places considered hostile.