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LGBTQ Group Petitions to Censure Antigay Tennessee Politician

Warren Hurst

Warren Hurst, who said it's "ugly" that a "queer" is running for president, has also drawn a response from the target of his ire.

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Sevier County, Tenn., Commissioner Warren Hurst is getting more blowback for the antigay remarks he made at the commission's meeting last week, with a petition calling for his censure and a response from the target of his hate.

"We got a queer running for president, if that ain't about as ugly as you can get," Hurst said at the October 21 meeting. "Look what we got running for president in the Democratic Party. We can go over here to Hoss's jail and get better people out of there than those running for Democratic to be president of the United States." The comment was clearly a reference to South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination. Hurst also claimed white male Americans have "very few rights" and are losing more of them daily.

Several citizens attending the meeting applauded Hurst's comments, but Sara Thompson, chair of the county's Democratic Party, told Hurst he was acting unprofessionally and then walked out in disgust. The Sevier County government has sought to distance itself from Hurst's remarks, saying they do not reflect county policy.

The Tennessee Equality Project wants more. The group Monday started an online petition calling for the Sevier County Commission to censure Hurst and to update the nondiscrimination policy for county employees to include sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. "We urge you to make this policy change by executive order immediately, to be followed by a confirming ordinance or resolution of the County Commission," reads the petition, addressed to Sevier County Mayor Larry Waters and members of the commission. It notes that there have been calls for Hurst's resignation, but "that decision is in his hands."

The TEP is also planning a protest at the commission's next meeting, set for November 18. A Facebook page for the action, titled "Wear Red Against Racism and Homophobia," notes Hurst's offensive remarks and urges citizens, "Show up in red to show your opposition to this kind of discourse in local government."

Buttigieg, the first out gay candidate to appear in a nationally televised presidential debate, commented on Hurst in response to a question from Sharman Sacchetti, a reporter for Boston TV station WHDH. "He was right about one thing," Buttigieg said last week while campaigning in New Hampshire. "He's right that there's a gay man running for president. He doesn't seem to be right about much else."

LGBTQ icon and supporter Dolly Parton grew up in Sevierville, the seat of Sevier County, and a statue of her stands on the lawn of the county's courthouse. Her Twitter followers and others have called on her to speak out about Hurst, but she has yet to do so. There have also been calls for a tourism boycott of the county, where the Dollywood theme park in Pigeon Forge is a major attraction. A Dollywood spokesman said Hurst's comments "do not reflect the Dollywood experience in any way," according to the Knoxville News Sentinel. "Dollywood is open and welcoming to everyone, every day."

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Trudy Ring

Trudy Ring is The Advocate’s senior politics editor and copy chief. She has been a reporter and editor for daily newspapers and LGBTQ+ weeklies/monthlies, trade magazines, and reference books. She is a political junkie who thinks even the wonkiest details are fascinating, and she always loves to see political candidates who are groundbreaking in some way. She enjoys writing about other topics as well, including religion (she’s interested in what people believe and why), literature, theater, and film. Trudy is a proud “old movie weirdo” and loves the Hollywood films of the 1930s and ’40s above all others. Other interests include classic rock music (Bruce Springsteen rules!) and history. Oh, and she was a Jeopardy! contestant back in 1998 and won two games. Not up there with Amy Schneider, but Trudy still takes pride in this achievement.
Trudy Ring is The Advocate’s senior politics editor and copy chief. She has been a reporter and editor for daily newspapers and LGBTQ+ weeklies/monthlies, trade magazines, and reference books. She is a political junkie who thinks even the wonkiest details are fascinating, and she always loves to see political candidates who are groundbreaking in some way. She enjoys writing about other topics as well, including religion (she’s interested in what people believe and why), literature, theater, and film. Trudy is a proud “old movie weirdo” and loves the Hollywood films of the 1930s and ’40s above all others. Other interests include classic rock music (Bruce Springsteen rules!) and history. Oh, and she was a Jeopardy! contestant back in 1998 and won two games. Not up there with Amy Schneider, but Trudy still takes pride in this achievement.