Haltom City lesbians say vendor’s verbal gay-bashing left their 7-year-old daughter in tears
DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer
When Latisha Pennington and Dondi Morse of Haltom City took their 7-year-old daughter to the Texas State Fair last weekend, they just wanted to have a fun day seeing the animals and trying out the fair’s famed array of fried treats.
But the women said this week their plans were ruined when one vendor verbally gay-bashed them in front of their daughter, leaving the little girl in tears and forcing the family to cut their outing short.
Although Pennington acknowledges that it isn’t hard to look at her and know she is a lesbian, that same isn’t true for her partner. And the two of them weren’t doing anything that day to attract attention; they weren’t holding hands and they certainly weren’t kissing or engaging in any kind of public displays of affection.
“We were just there to have fun with our daughter,” Pennington said, adding that PDAs “just aren’t our style.”
But that wasn’t enough to ward off some unwanted attention from the men at the booth for the Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship in America.
Pennington said she and Morse and their daughter had just left one of the animal buildings when she heard a man call out to them. He said, she recalled,
“Hey, come here, come here. I got something for you. Got a couple of questions.”
The women noticed that the man was one of several at the booth that were giving away T-shirts and visors so they decided to go over and see what was being offered.
Each man in the booth was holding a sign that said, “What would you take for $1 million?” And the man who called them over did indeed have a question for them: “Would you take $1 million for your right eye?”
Pennington said she closed one eye, and the man asked her what she was doing. She told him she was just checking to see how well she could see out of one eye before she answered.
She said the man laughed at her answer. But his next question was no laughing matter: “Would you take $1 million for your soul?”
That’s when Morse jumped into the conversation, telling the man that if he was trying to engage them in a religious debate, they weren’t interested in going further.
Pennington said the man assured them he wasn’t interested in a religious debate either. But his next statement proved otherwise. That’s when the encounter began to turn ugly.
Pennington said he asked them, “What do you think will happen to your soul when you die?” Then he answered his own question with, “I know what’s going to happen to your soul. You’re going to hell for being a homosexual.”
The man then began “slinging biblical quotes at us” that supposedly condemn homosexuality. And as his harangue continued, their daughter began to cry, prompting the mothers to get her away from the booth and the man there as quickly as possible.
“We were at the booth no more than two minutes,” Pennington said, adding that the first thing to go through her mind was, “Oh, wow! Nothing like this has ever happened to us before.”
Besides just ruining their family outing with his remarks, Pennington said she questions what sort of family values the man who accosted them thought he was teaching her.
They tried to calm their daughter, Pennington said, but she continued to cry, asking Morse, “Mommy, why are you going to hell?”
The couple soon decided that they needed to leave the fair as quickly as possible to get their daughter to a safer environment where she could begin to calm down.
Pennington said they contacted state fair officials immediately to complain. On Wednesday, she said, they had heard back from State Fair Director Kelly Pound, who offered the family free tickets to return another day.
But Pennington said that while she appreciates the offer, she and Morse feel their daughter was too traumatized by the encounter to risk a return visit to the fair this year.
Pennington also said she doesn’t think just offering the family free tickets was an adequate response, and that she worries that other families could be attacked and other children traumatized by the man’s anti-gay tirades, even if they aren’t LGBT families.
Pennington suggested that fair officials should remove the Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship in America and their booth from the fair. Sue Gooding, a spokeswoman for fair officials, said Thursday, Oct. 6, that while the group wouldn’t be asked to leave the fair, such behavior violates fair policy and will not be tolerated.
“That’s not the way we expect our vendors to act,” Gooding said, adding that vendors are expected to stay in their booths and should not call people over.
She said that Pound had gone to the booth already to have a discussion with the Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship after the incident was reported, letting them know that “We’re not going to put up with this.”
Gooding said that while “the conversation went well,” Pound may decide to have a second conversation with the group before this weekend, when some 200 people have indicated on the “Gay Day at the State Fair” Facebook group page that they will be attending the fair on Saturday, Oct. 8.
Fairgoers who would like to visit the Full Gospel Businessmen’s Association of America will find its booth outside the Pan Am Arena located behind the Cotton Bowl, on Nimitz Avenue.
For more information on the Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship in America,
go online to fgbmfamerica.com/wordpress. According to the website, the group’s
“• To reach men everywhere for Jesus Christ, taking particular note that in many instances men can reach others of their same social, cultural or business interests more readily than anyone else.
“• To call men to God: to help men become born again, baptized in the Holy Spirit, operate in the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, and take the Good News to the nations.
“• To mentor young men who have never had positive male role models by being a spiritual father to them.
“• To provide a basis of fellowship among all men everywhere: by creating a fellowship not directly associated with any specific church, but cooperating with all denominations and inspiring our members to be active in their respective churches.
“• To bring about a greater measure of unity and harmony in the Body of Christ; where members are united in a common effort to spread the Good News and to be in full fellowship and submission to the true Head of the church . . . the Lord Jesus Christ.”
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 7, 2011.