Kern draws Democratic opponent in wake of tirade

Posted on 27 Mar 2008 at 6:54pm
By By Tim Talley Associated Press

‘I abhor hatred,’ says social worker running against OKC legislator


Rep. Sally Kern

OKLAHOMA CITY — Republican state Rep. Sally Kern, whose widely publicized condemnation of gays and lesbians has provoked calls for her resignation, will have a Democratic opponent in this fall’s election, Democratic officials said Monday, March 24.

Ron Marlett, a 59-year-old social worker, was introduced by state Democratic Party head Ivan Holmes at a news conference where Marlett said statements by Kern that likened homosexuality to terrorism echo the words of extremists.

"I’ve just been concerned for some time about the damage done by extremes," Marlett said. "I abhor hatred. I abhor hatred of people, of groups. I think everyone is worthy of respect."

Marlett, a social worker at Community Pathways Unlimited, said he has considered running for public office in the past and that Kern’s comments helped him make the decision to seek her Oklahoma City-area seat.

Kern made the comments to a Republican group where they were recorded and posted on the video sharing Web site YouTube by the Washington, D.C.-based Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund. Among other things, she said homosexuality poses a bigger threat to the U.S. than terrorism.

A former teacher, Kern also said gays are teaching young public school children that their lifestyle is acceptable.

Marlett said there are limits to a person’s right to free speech: "I do not believe people have the right to incite violence with their free speech. Free speech can be provocative and it can be considered hateful by some. We have to treat people with dignity and respect."

Kern, who has rejected demands by gay and lesbian groups that she apologize for her anti-gay remarks, said she is not concerned about Marlett’s candidacy.

Originally elected in 2004, Kern was unopposed for re-election two years ago. She succeeded former state Rep. Bill Graves, currently a district judge in Oklahoma County who was considered one of the state’s most conservative lawmakers during his more than 20 years in the Legislature.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 28, 2008.

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