POSTED ON APRIL 2, 2008:
A Candidate of Contrast
State Rep. Kern's comments on homosexuality spur Ok City Democrat into political action
Ron Marlett. Running for state Rep. Sally Kern's seat in the Legislature out of concerns for the needs of his district.
Ron Marlett said he's running for state Rep. Sally Kern's seat in the Legislature, first and foremost, out of concern for the needs of his district.
But, the recent controversy over her infamous anti-gay comments didn't hurt at all.
In fact, as Marlett tells it, the controversy provided the spark that ignited his candidacy.
"It was an energizing moment," the 59-year-old Oklahoma City social worker told UTW about the influence the Kern Controversy had on his decision.
"When I heard those statements, I told my family then and there my decision to run," he added.
The statements in question were recorded at a presentation Kern made to a few dozen Republicans in her district in January, which were then delivered to a Washington, D.C.-based gay political advocacy group, which posted a slightly-less-than-three-minute portion of it on YouTube.com early last month, drawing international media attention and condemnation as "hate speech" from various corners.
In her address, Kern warned that the "homosexual agenda is destroying this nation," calling it "a bigger threat than terrorism" (for full details, see "Redefining 'Hate' and "A Thunderstorm of Biblical Proportions" in the March 20-26 issue of UTW at www.urbantulsa.com).
Marlett said her comments, and the controversy surrounding them, made him "realize the strength, and the damage involved in extreme statements like that," especially from someone in Kern's position.
The embattled Republican was elected in 2004, but didn't draw an opponent in 2006.
Since her anti-gay remarks were publicized, some of her staunchest critics have called on her to either apologize or resign.
And Marlett is just fine with Kern's response that she plans to do neither.
"I'd very much like to run against her. I believe I can beat her. I would hope she would stay in office long enough for me to beat her," he told UTW.
His campaign, he said, "is going to be based on three principles: Freedom, Equality and Prosperity."
"That means people have the right to make choices about who they are. And those rights are not limited to a few," Marlett elaborated, as if in contrast with Kern's stance.
"Ms. Kern has the right to express herself. She has the First Amendment right to free speech. But, she attacked a group that has the First Amendment right to assemble, organize and pursue their interests."
Naturally, he was then asked if he thinks Kern is infringing on their rights, and how.
"I'm concerned that if those types of comments continue and gain momentum that they will be infringed upon," he answered.
"I don't know whether she intends to stop people from trying to organize and act in their best interests. I don't know if that's her intention. It's my intention to make sure those rights are not infringed upon," Marlett added.
When the YouTube controversy initially broke, Kern issued a written statement in which she said, "To put this simply, as a Christian I believe that homosexuality is not moral. Obviously, you have the right as an American to choose that lifestyle, but I also have the right to express my views and my fellow Oklahomans have the right to debate these issues."
Concerning homosexuals' pursuit of their interests in the ongoing culture war, Kern said, "That is their right, just as it is my right to voice opposition to their agenda, which I have been asked to do at several public forums in recent months. That's what democracy is all about."
Marlett also homed-in on another Kern statement found in the YouTube posting that "not everybody's lifestyle is equal, just like not all religions are created equal."
"She can believe that in her church, but as an elected representative, she is called on to represent people of all faiths, and I will represent people of all faiths," said Marlett.
He commented that Kern comes from "a very conservative branch of Christianity" and that "all of her bills are related to religion."
Kern's husband is a pastor of a Southern Baptist church in Oklahoma City.
Marlett said he has "seen the damage done by extremists on both the right side, and the left," which he said he'll oppose if he's elected to office.
Regarding his own ideological position, he defined himself as a "centrist Democrat" who would "probably be called a 'Republican'" on the west coast.
Since it was pretty obvious what he meant by the "damage caused by extremists on the right," Marlett was asked what "damage" he's witnessed by extremists on the other end of the ideological spectrum.
"I've seen a chilling effect on free speech coming from both sides," he answered.
Specifically, he said, "There have been instances on the west coast where a conservative couldn't express himself without being shouted down, and I don't see a great deal of difference in terms of the suppression of freedom. I don't think there's that much difference between the extremists on both sides."
Perhaps ironically, that's essentially the same tactic Kern accused her opponents of using by vilifying her as a source of "hate speech."
"That's where I would differ with the left--I want to preserve the rights of the right, also. I want to everyone to be at the table of this debate over the future of Oklahoma," Marlett said.
The issue under discussion when the west coast conservative was "shouted down," he said, was the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.
"The extreme left, I believe, would deny that right," he said.
He said that isn't an issue in his district, nor in Oklahoma, nor is any of the "damage from the extreme left" he said he opposes.
"I don't think you're going to find many people that you would define as the 'extreme left' in Oklahoma. I think that those groups tend to live closer to oceans. And I support their right to free speech and to organize," said Marlett.
In addition to being an alternative to the civil rights infringements he attributes to Kern, Marlett said he'd also "like to see manufacturing jobs come back into Oklahoma."
He said he plans to propose tax incentives to that end, as well as for Oklahomans who increase the energy efficiency of their homes and purchase energy-efficient vehicles.
He said he also "would like to see tax incentives to bring green industry into Oklahoma."
"But none of these things can be accomplished unless we all work together, so everyone is going to be welcome at my table as we tackle all these issues," Marlett added.
He's never held a public office before, but has been a social worker for more than 30 years.
Marlett works for Community Pathways Unlimited, which provides counseling and mental health services to elderly and disabled people in nursing homes.
He's lived in Oklahoma City his entire life.
Marlett is married to Liz, a fellow social worker, and the two have a 17-year-old daughter.
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