More than 2,000 people gathered in a Cannonsburg, Ky., church parking lot Sunday to protest a vote that permits a gay rights student group to meet at Boyd County High School. Opponents of the Gay-Straight Alliance urged the school to ban the group, and they signed petitions and donated money for a legal fund. They also urged the school to set up classes that teach both tolerance and that homosexuality is wrong. Last month the school's teacher-parent council voted 3-2 to let the alliance meet at school. Twice before the council had rejected the request but changed its decision after a letter from the American Civil Liberties Union said the rejection violated the Equal Access Act, which says all extracurricular clubs must be treated alike.
David Miller, vice president of Citizens for Community Values, a Cincinnati pro-family activist group, told those attending the rally across the street from the high school that they can serve as an example for others who oppose gay rights organizations in schools. "Your stand, your courage, is going to lead the way," said Miller. Members of the alliance did not attend the rally. Some have said they have been spat on, subjected to slurs, and threatened with violence. "Homosexual kids always have it toughest. They're the ones who are ostracized for being different," said Tim Dail, 20, a Boyd County High graduate who attended the rally even though he opposed its message.
The Reverend Tim York, who is pastor at the Heritage Temple Free Will Baptist Church in Cannonsburg and president of the Boyd County Ministerial Association, put the crowd size at 2,350. York said the association organized the rally because "we are concerned about homosexuality being promoted on school time as a normal lifestyle." The rally was the latest round in a battle over whether a small group of students can gather occasionally at the school for meetings of the new club. The 30-member student group has started an uproar in the community. More than 400 of the school's 990 students skipped school November 4 in protest of the council's decision to allow the group to meet.
Speakers urged Sunday's after-church crowd to resist what they said was a national homosexual agenda that has targeted this part of northeastern Kentucky. There was frequent applause and "amen"s. "Most places where I fight this, the liberals are in charge. But I think they made a mistake by pushing this in this community," said Scott Lively, an attorney who is president of Abiding Faith Ministries of Sacramento. Lively was retained by the Boyd County Ministerial Association. Boyd County could become a model for the rest of the nation, Lively said, if it follows his idea to get rid of the club by replacing it with a class that would teach tolerance for gays. Speakers stressed nonviolence and urged that club members not be bullied but made it clear they consider homosexuality to be a personality disorder that can be "cured."
Lively cited statistics he said prove a gay person runs a greater risk of dying of AIDS than a smoker does of dying of lung cancer. "We're not going to have a Marlboro club, but we're going to have a homosexual club," Lively said. "Does that make sense?"
The alliance and its teacher-adviser, Kaye King, said in a statement issued Friday by the ACLU that opponents of the group "should respect our right to meet. We ask for tolerance if acceptance is not part of others' belief systems." But Boyd County High students Douglas Duncil, 17, and Bretnie Hall, 15, said they are considering transferring to another school because of the alliance and that other students also are thinking about going elsewhere. "It's very unfair," said Duncil, who said the senior class was organizing another school boycott. "The homosexuals, or whatever you want to call them, seem to get more rights throughout our school."