We've written at NewsBusters at how reticent the Associated Press is to note the Democratic Party affiliation of controversial or disgraced politicians, the latest of which is New York Governor Eliot Spitzer. But right off the bat the AP yesterday disclosed the party affiliation of an Oklahoma state legislator strongly critical of gay rights activists.
OKLAHOMA CITY – A Republican member of the Oklahoma Legislature has received death threats since telling a political group that "the homosexual agenda is just destroying this nation" and poses a bigger threat to the U.S. than terrorism or Islam.
"I'm not gay-bashing. But according to God's word that is not the right kind of lifestyle," Rep. Sally Kern of Oklahoma City said during an appearance before a group of Republicans. Her comments were recorded and posted on the video sharing Web site YouTube on Friday by the Washington, D.C.-based Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund.
The AP made certain to stack the article with critics of Kern, one of whom called Kern's comments "hate speech":
Chuck Wolfe, president and CEO of the Victory Fund, said Kern's position in the Oklahoma House means she is representing her constituents as well as the entire state when she speaks.
"I think her comments can rightfully be classified as hate speech," Wolfe said. "Do we expect our elected officials to spew hate? If we don't, then we should tell them we don't.
"It's appalling. It is a hate-filled rant that shouldn't go unnoticed."
Of course the media won't let it go unnoticed, and almost certainly won't let her party affiliation slip by without mention.
What's more, while Kern has the First Amendment right to express her opinions, at least one gay rights activist critical of Kern's speech seems to hint that Kern's comments fall outside free speech protection. Reported Mick Hinton in the Tulsa World:
Justice Waidner, executive director of Oklahomans for Equality, said in a press release that "OkEq firmly supports Rep. Kern's constitutional right to express her views, but vociferously objects to the actions she takes to prevent LGBT Oklahomans from attaining justice and equality."
"When elected officials use their power to defame entire categories of people, they abuse the freedom of speech embedded in the First Amendment and violate their responsibility to ensure the safety and well-being of their constituents," she said.
The group called upon the rest of the Legislature to condemn Kern's comments and to pass a state hate crimes law that includes sexual orientation and gender identity.