Foes of rights ignore reality of gays' fears
©Copyright 1997 Guy Gannett Communications
It won't be long before Maine's homophobes are back on the streets, telling us that the new state law extending equal rights to homosexuals is the work of the devil and that gay people in these parts never had it so good.
They'll tell us that the ''gay rights bill'' is a clever conspiracy by homosexuals bent on taking over our schools, our churches, our Boy Scout troops, our economy. They'll tell us about how this verse of the Bible condemns gay people, while that verse gives us the right - no, the duty - to expose them as depraved sinners.
But they won't tell you about Kurt Pray.
Pray, a young man from Biddeford who according to the state has a serious problem with gay people, signed a consent decree a few weeks ago in which he promised to refrain from ''assaulting, threatening, intimidating, coercing or harassing'' Doug Rawlinson and Roger Ruple, along with anyone else whose behavior he might find offensive.
And why would Pray sign such a document? Because, after what happened on the Maine Turnpike during the early morning hours of June 28, he had no choice.
It began, according to the complaint filed by the Attorney General's Office, on Interstate 95 in Portsmouth, N.H, when Pray saw Rawlinson and Ruple ''sitting close together in their truck'' as they drove by him.
Pray, for reasons known only to him (and perhaps those who raised him), flipped his lid. ''Soon thereafter, (he) passed the (two men's) pickup truck, turned on his interior light, and mouthed something to the victims that they could not hear, but perceived to be derogatory,'' the complaint states.
That was only the beginning. Another young man in a pickup pulled up beside Pray. They ''exchanged words that the victims could not hear and gestured back toward the victims.''
Arriving at the Maine Turnpike toll plaza, Pray pulled up alongside Rawlinson and Ruple and allegedly screamed, ''I'll kick your (expletive) faggot ass'' along with a few other ''derogatory comments and profanities.''
Leaving the plaza, the state says, Pray and his partner in persecution (who was never identified) used their pickups to ''box in'' Rawlinson and Ruple, pulling ahead of them when they tried to flee and then slamming on the brakes to slow them down. Finally, near Exit 4, they forced the two frightened men to a complete halt.
Rawlinson and Ruple, ''feeling that their lives were in danger, and fearing (Pray) may have a weapon, backed their car up as fast as they could along the turnpike in order to seek out protection amongst other cars.''
Finally, they got off the turnpike in Biddeford and called the police.
''There's no question in my mind that they were shaken up - visibly,'' said State Trooper Kevin Curran, who handled the call.
And Pray? ''He was . . . how can I put this politely . . . he was less than cooperative,'' said Curran, who tracked him down the next day. ''I guess I would term it very confrontational.''
In addition to the civil consent decree, Pray still faces a charge of reckless endangerment with a dangerous weapon (his pickup) - just another sign, from where Curran sits, that it's open season on anyone even perceived as gay.
''I'm seeing a lot of it,'' the state trooper said. ''And unfortunately, for a lot of reasons, it seems to be becoming more pronounced.''
In other words, efforts to repeal equal rights (not ''special'' rights) for gay people - even by Mainers who call themselves decent, God-fearing Christians - ignore the fact that homosexuals in this state aren't trying to take over anything.
Out on the turnpike at 1 a.m., with nowhere to go but backward, they're simply trying to survive.
Bill Nemitz is a columnist for The Portland Newspapers.
The Portland Press Herald Home Page
The Maine GayNet Archive