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Back in the ring -- Legislator vs. Homosexuality

By ELLEN DEBENPORT

LITTLE ROCK -- A state legislator is upset again about a non-credit course on homosexuality being taught at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

Rep. Jerry King sponsored a resolution in the House last spring denouncing such a course and tried to hold up UALR's funding until it was stopped. He said UA President James Martin had assured him 'this sort of thing would not happen again.'

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But there it is -- American Gay History -- in the student government's fall catalogue for Open University, an informal course series. It is described as 'legal and social development of the gay community, societal responses to homosexuality' and has a textbook called 'Gay American History.'

'I was not aware of this program. We will certain begin (an investigation) immediately,' Martin said Tuesday.

King demanded the investigation in letters to Martin, UALR Chancellor Robert Ross and every member of the UA Board of Trustees and UALR Board of Visitors.

King, an Assembly of God minister, said homosexuality does have 'its deviant place in history' and conceded a course in homosexual history, dating from Sodom and Gomorrah to the present, might be permissible.

'The constitutional question probably would be whether we can project in a classroom historically the significance of this perversion,' King said.

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'The act is perverted,' he said. 'The individuals I certainly care for.'

Last spring's course was called 'Understanding Homosexuality.' King warned that it, too, was an 'advocacy course' and said because it was taught by the pastor of a local gay church, it violated the constitutional separation of church and state.

King's resolution denouncing the course passed overwhelmingly in the Legislature about the time the course series came to an end.

Sponsors of Open University moved course meetings off campus -- to the Unitarian Church -- to avoid controversy, said Walter Kilmer, president of the Student Government Association.

'It's strictly a history course,' Kilmer said. 'It's certainly within the realm of academic pursuits.'

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