State Rep. Sally Kern, R-Oklahoma City, clarified statements she made about homosexuals and equal rights at an Aug. 7 conference in Oklahoma City. Speaking at the Wake Up, America! Conference, Kern told her audience about a group of "homosexual millionaires" who "for years have been working secretly to change the society of America, the political side of America, so that there would be freedom and equality for everyone."
In an interview, Kern addressed that comment she made during the speech: "First, I want to say that every citizen of this country has guaranteed freedoms and rights," she said. "I did not mean that homosexuals do not or should not have rights and equality. However, they do want special rights, including the right to marry."
Kern said she was invited to speak at the conference by Oklahoma City-based Southwest Radio Ministries, chartered in Oklahoma under the name Southwest Radio Church of the Air. The ministry has had a continuous radio presence in the U.S. since 1933. Bob Glaze, general manager and missions administrator, calls it "the best-kept secret in Oklahoma City."
It may not be well-known to city residents, but SWRM is carried on more than 120 stations in the U.S. and streamed live on the Internet. According to the group's 2008 Form 990, the organization grossed $3.4 million that year.
"We're not affiliated with a foundation or trust or church," Glaze said. "All our contributions come from individuals. We are totally independent. Our staff goes to a variety of churches around the metro."
Glaze said about 35 percent of the ministry's content focused on end-times prophecy. SWRM is an organization in the pre-millennial dispensational camp, the kind of end-times beliefs popularized in the "Left Behind" series of novels.
Kern said she was invited to the conference to give her testimony " a time-honored tradition in fundamentalist and evangelical circles.
"This was not a political gathering," Kern said. "It was a religious conference, a gathering of people from all over the U.S. to address the state of our nation from a biblical perspective."
Glaze said Kern was invited because she speaks frankly about one of the "moral issues" SWRM represents.
"(Rep.) Kern thinks very much like we do," Glaze said. "We're pro-American, patriotic, pro-Constitution; we're very conservative. It's well-known that (Rep.) Kern gained a lot of notoriety for saying what she did about homosexuals. We are not anti-homosexual. We love the sinner, and hate the sin. We'd witness to them."
Kern's speech, titled "Taking a Stand Against Liberals," is nearly an hour long, and much of the material is concerned with her history since making the famous comparison of gays to terrorists in which terrorists actually come out ahead. At one point in the second half of her presentation, she makes the claim: "I had no plans to go after the homosexuals. "¦ God gave me this situation."
Early in the presentation, Kern said, "The homosexuals hate me. I mean, they really hate me because I would not back down from my remarks. They thought I would."
When asked if it was possible that the LGBT community was angry because her remarks about terrorists were deeply offensive, Kern said, "I'm sure they were offended, but they do want me to back down. Most people do. We have totally different worldviews. They want acceptance for their lifestyles, and I disagree wholeheartedly with them. I'm not going to back down from my convictions."
Brittany Novotny, Kern's Democratic opponent in the November election for House District 84, said she did not want to respond to many of the incumbent Kern's remarks, even the idea that marriage was a "special right."
"Oklahomans already handled that issue in 2004," Novotny said. "I think they're ready to move on to issues that matter to everyone. They want to talk about jobs, transportation and education."
Kern also addressed the claim that gay millionaires are working to change the culture.
"I was talking about Tim Gill and the Gill Foundation," she said. She offered no other names of gay millionaires in the group.
Gill is a software entrepreneur and activist whose Gill Foundation has spent $106 million on nonprofits and partner organizations that work for equality for LGBT people. The group has a website with clearly stated goals, and Gill is well-known as an activist and philanthropist.
Bobby Clark, vice president of communications for the Denver-based group, said Gill Foundation does not do any political work.
"Tim has some of his own causes, and he's also established Gill Action," Clark said. "Gill Action handles the political issues."
According to the website, Gill Action "provides resources to individuals and organizations working to advance equality; encourages civic engagement; and invests in strong leadership by partnering with allied organizations in the legislative, political and electoral process."
Novotny, who reiterated that she has been honest and open about her transgender status, has tried to focus on issues important to all Oklahomans.
"Gill Foundation, Tim Gill, Gill Action and the Victory Fund (another LGBT rights organization) have not contributed any money to my campaign," she said.
Hear full audio of Kern's Aug. 7 speech:
photos Incumbent Sally Kern (top) attends the "Oklahoma Citizen's Proclamation for Morality" signing rally in 2009 at the Capitol as future challenger Brittany Novotny (bottom) protests. Photos/Mark Hancock