The amendment city commissioners deliberated over Monday night should have been no big deal. It adds homosexuals to the city's civil rights code to shield them from discrimination. It's mostly symbolic anyway, as the penalty for violating the code is $500 per incident.
But the issue grew out of proportion until it became a fight over the city's soul. "What we're dealing with here is something bigger than somebody's losing his job," said Alex Clattenburg, a Longwood minister who opposed the amendment.
Clattenburg was joined by 40 people concerned that passing the amendment would cause any number of social ills: gay adoption, gay marriage, rampant pedophilia, homosexuals recruiting straight kids, the decline of small business, hostile work environments, civic approval of sodomy, etc.
Clattenburg's group -- members of which wore white, rectangular "Vote no" stickers -- characterized gays in what would have been comical terms, if not for the fact that conservatives took them seriously. Gays, they warned, are 17 times more likely to attack kids, are more likely to die before age 50, and transmit a disproportionate amount of venereal diseases.
Of course, 57 proponents of the amendment -- united by pink triangular stickers -- were also ready with verbal ammunition. They painted conservatives as diabolical, anachronistic, discriminatory hatemongers.
"Homosexuals were rounded up by the Nazis and subsequently exterminated," said lesbian activist Debbie Simmons, gesturing toward conservatives. "Is this their intention?"
The result of the seven-hour debate on council members, however, was negligible. Going into Monday night's meeting, conventional wisdom held that four commissioners favored the amendment. Democrats Phil Diamond, Daisy Lynum and Patty Sheehan, as well as Republican Ernest Page, did in fact vote for it.
The council's three dissenting commissioners -- Vicki Vargo, Betty Wyman and Mayor Glenda Hood -- looked as clueless coming out of the proceedings as they did going into them.
Last month Hood said the amendment was unnecessary. Wyman abdicated responsibility by saying the vote should be put to a referendum.
Vargo, who drew the night's loudest laugh by saying she'd kept an open mind about the amendment, said gays provided no evidence they'd been discriminated against.
Two of the more devout council members, Lynum and Page, mentioned Christ during deliberations, but only then to dismiss him as a consideration.
"As some of you religious guys know, Jesus said 'render unto Caesar what is Caesar's, and unto God what is God's,'" Page said. "In this case, we are Caesar. We're not making moral judgments."
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