On Tuesday, the media and gay community's attention was focused on the ballot issues in Kalamazoo, Maine and Washington state. But another gay rights-related issue played out in Dayton, Ohio. Two-term incumbent Mayor Rhine McLin lost her re-election bid because her once solid support in the black community had slipped. One possible reason: The city's leading black ministers refused to endorse her because she supported the city's gay rights ordinance, reports the Dayton News.
“In a close race, everything is a factor,” said her campaign manager, Montgomery County Democratic Chairman Mark Owens. “It is very ironic that they denied the endorsement because she took the stance that gays shouldn’t be discriminated against because of sexual orientation. She’s concerned about human rights for everyone — blacks, whites, gays.”
In announcing the alliance’s decision, the Rev. Wilburt Shanklin, its president, pointed to factors other than McLin’s stand on the ordinance. “The economy is still in turmoil in the city and we don’t see a lot of relief coming from the City Commission,” said Shanklin. But he also said that when McLin was elected, “we thought we had an agreement” that she wouldn’t support a gay-rights ordinance.
Given the IMA’s past history on this issue, it’s hard not to draw the conclusion that this is the gist of the matter. In 2007, Shanklin made the through-the-looking glass argument that in considering a gay-rights ordinance, the Dayton City Commission is “trampling on the blood of Martin Luther King Jr. and on the blood of the suffragettes.” Alliance fliers implied that after granting “special rights” to gays and lesbians, specials rights for sexual predators and pedophiles wouldn’t be far behind.
McLin lost the election by less than 900 votes out of 29,000 cast. The new mayor, Gary Leitzell, who is white, is a community activist with little executive experience. "I just think voters chose for change,” McLin said on Wednesday.
The outgoing mayor says she is "proud" that Dayton now bans discrimination on sexual orientation and says the stand was worth the political cost.
Once again, it was much easier for many of the community's black churches and so-called black "leaders" to focus on gay rights than the real problems in Dayton's hard-hit black community, such as gang violence, HIV/AIDS, and foreclosures. And "trampling on the blood" of Dr. King? Really. Some of the so-called ministers should have asked Coretta Scott King what her husband would have fought for.