Tenn. County Officials Seek to Ban Gays

Rhea County (search) commissioners unanimously voted to ask state lawmakers to introduce legislation amending Tennessee's criminal code so the county can charge homosexuals (search) with crimes against nature.

"We need to keep them out of here," said Commissioner J.C. Fugate, who introduced the motion.

County Attorney Gary Fritts also was asked by Fugate to find the best way to enact a local law banning homosexuals from living in Rhea County.

The Rhea County action came after the Senate Judiciary Committee (search) voted 7-1 Tuesday for a bill that would prohibit legal recognition of civil unions and domestic partnerships among homosexuals in Tennessee. Gay marriages already are prohibited in the state.

The state senator who represents Rhea County, Tommy Kilby, D-Wartburg, said Wednesday he hadn't seen the resolution and couldn't comment on it until he did.

"Yesterday in Judiciary Committee, they passed out a bill basically saying we will not recognize same-sex partnerships or civil unions from other states or foreign countries. I voted for that, and that's my position on that issue," Kilby said.

State Rep. Jim Vincent couldn't be reached for comment Wednesday.

Rhea County, about 30 miles north of Chattanooga, is among the most conservative in Tennessee. It holds an annual festival commemorating the 1925 trial that convicted John T. Scopes on charges of teaching evolution, a verdict thrown out by the Tennessee Supreme Court on a technicality. The trial later became the subject of the play and movie, "Inherit the Wind."

In 2002, a federal judge ruled unconstitutional the Rhea County school board's Bible Education Ministry, a class taught in the public schools by students from a Christian college.