Getting Local - In the small Cape Cod town of Truro, anti-gay marriage petition signer Leo Childs recently lost his bid to stay on the volunteer board of fire engineers. Here is the article from the Cape Cod Times:
Gay marriage petition signature riles selectman
By Eric Williams, Cape Cod Times | April 22, 2006
TRURO - The usually dull and genteel business of appointing members to a volunteer town board took a peculiar and aggressive turn at this week's selectmen meeting.
A candidate for reappointment to the board of fire engineers, Leo Childs, was called on the carpet by Selectman Paul Asher-Best for signing a recently circulated petition opposing gay marriage.
Childs' bid for reappointment was denied when selectmen voted unanimously to appoint other candidates. Most selectmen said their reason for not reappointing Childs was in the interest of having new faces on a town board.
Asher-Best defended his vote not to reappoint Childs on more personal grounds during an interview yesterday.
''If you think I'm not entitled to civil marriage, then the only conclusion I can draw is that you don't think I'm fully human, or that my humanity is not on par with yours,'' he said.
Asher-Best, who said he recently married his longtime partner, said he felt Childs had shown a bias against gay people by signing the petition.
''There are a lot of households in Truro headed by gay and lesbian people, and I just need to make sure that they're going to have equal protection and not have people who are biased against them in charge of public safety situations,'' he said.
Selectman ''out of line''
Two selectmen took issue with Asher-Best's criticism of Childs.
''I think it was extremely personal on Paul's part,'' Selectman Gary Palmer said. ''I understand that he takes the issue very seriously. But, I personally think it was inappropriate. It didn't relate, in my mind, to the issue at hand.''
Fred Gaechter, chairman of the board of selectman, agreed with Palmer.
''I thought (Asher-Best) was out of line,'' Gaechter said. ''Not that he doesn't have the right to his personal opinion, but so does Leo. You don't take people's political positions and use them to determine whether they can serve on the board or not.''
Gaechter said he voted for other candidates for the board because it would best serve the town to have some ''new blood'' on the panel.
Childs did not respond to several phone messages seeking comment. According to town reports, he had served on the board since 1998.
The fire engineers panel is the only town board whose members are allowed to work in the department for which they make decisions, according to the town charter. Fire Chief John Prada and Deputy Chief John Garran both serve on the board.
''It is more than an advisory board,'' Gaechter said. ''They make decisions that help run the fire department.''
Gaechter said the panel's duties include drafting a contract for a fire chief, which would have to be approved by the board of selectmen.
Web site publishes names
Asher-Best said he became aware Childs had signed the anti-gay marriage petition by checking the Web site KnowThyNeighbor.org. The site has published the names of people who signed the petition, searchable by name, address and zip code.
The site bills itself as a ''grassroots, nonprofit organization promoting dialogue on marriage equality in Massachusetts.'' It discourages actions by anyone to harm a person ''for exercising their democratic right to sign the petition.''
The organization's director said he could not recall a similar circumstance surrounding the publication of a petition signer's name but said he supported Asher-Best's inquisition.
''This is exactly what we hoped KnowThyNeighbor would do, start conversations,'' said Tom Lang.
''Gay people are the ones who have been shut up and quieted and shamed into keeping their lives quiet, private, out of the public sector for so long,'' he said. ''I applaud the selectman. It's his responsibility to ask these questions.''
Tom Lang & Aaron Toleos
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