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Sat 29 Jul 00 0:55
ROSS SAUER
Vermont gay bashing

Note from Ross: These assholes don't give up, do they? (BTW, doesn't some of these assholes remind any of you of a few people here?)

Opponents target November election
By HEATHER STEPHENSON

Staff Writer

MONTPELIER - "Remember in November - Take back Vermont" was the rallying cry as nearly 130 opponents of civil unions rallied on the State House lawn Saturday morning.

"This is a day of rejoicing for but a small minority of Vermont citizens. It's a very sad reminder of the arrogance of the House and Senate leadership and the arrogance of the Dean administration in the face of the majority of Vermonters' strong and vocal public opposition to the civil unions legislation," said Craig Bensen, vice president of Take It to the People and pastor of the Cambridge United Church. "I'm wondering why the Vermont state flag isn't flying at half mast."

Bensen and other speakers urged civil union opponents to register voters and support politicians who would overturn the law next year, and to oust the legislators who supported the law, including Gov. Howard Dean. Anti-civil unions candidates worked the crowd for signatures on their petitions, while volunteers handed out literature under the blazing sun.

Steven Cable of Rutland, organizer of Who Would Have Thought, linked homosexuality to a list of social ills, from decreased use of seatbelts to increased alcoholism, drug use and AIDS. He also said adult sex with children is part of a gay "manifesto."

"Further legitimizing homosexuality is just going to put our children in harm's way," he said.

Cable rejected the labels of prejudice and homophobia that he said some people put on his views.

"We need to respect all people. I'm against harassment," he said. "But there's nothing wrong with fearing something that can hurt you." The Rev. Neal Laybourne, pastor of the Barre Evangelical Free Church and one of the rally's organizers, said the new law would increase pressure to teach children in public schools that homosexuality is acceptable. "Are our kids worth protecting from this kind of impure action?" he asked, to sounds of approval.

"This is not about live and let live," Laybourne said. "We'd already been doing that."

Instead, he argued that civil unions elevate same-sex relationships to the privileged status of traditional marriage, which he said flies in the face of most Vermonters' values.

Dean was right to call for healing after the law was passed, Laybourne added, but healing can come only from the law's speedy repeal. "The good doctor knows you never close up a wound that's still infected," he said, referring to Dean's background as a general practitioner. "It's time to make the civil unions bill the shortest- lived bill in the state of Vermont."

Rep. Oreste Valsangiacomo, D-Barre City, who is not running for re-election, urged members of the crowd to go door to door to win support for their cause.

"Democracy is not a spectator sport," he said. "We either participate or we get the wrong people in office."

"Today we are celebrating the beginning of the end of Act 91," he added. "November 7 is the most important election we will ever have in Vermont." Although the rally was billed as non-religious, it included an invocation in the name of Jesus Christ. The group also rose to sing "My Country 'Tis of Thee" and "America the Beautiful."

People in the crowd shared the organizers' concern about how civil unions would affect children.

"I don't like them going into the schools and teaching our children it's all right," said Sandy Raymond of Berlin, who wore a "Take Back Vermont" T-shirt that matched the one worn by her husband of 40 years, Gene. "We love (homosexuals), but not their lifestyle."

Robert Haverick of Marshfield attended the rally with his wife and 23-month-old daughter, Summer, who waved an American flag from her stroller. Haverick opposes the civil unions law because it conflicts with his moral views, and because he believes it will attract people with AIDS to the state. "It will put a big drain on the Vermont medical community and the state budget," he said.

The State House rally was organized late last week to coincide with the first day of the new civil unions law. But some opponents, such as Rep. Nancy Sheltra, R-Derby, chose to stay away and spend a quiet day at home instead. "When Vermonters start seeing these unions take place, that will be enough to activate the grassroots movement," she said.

1999 Rutland Herald

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