SCHENECTADY: Bigots Complain To City Council About "I Am Gay" Billboards
Last night a member of the Schnectady, New York city council joined with two constituents in calling for the removal of billboards featuring black gay men. The billboard campaign is a joint effort of the state Department of Health and the LGBT advocacy group, In Our Own Voices. Leading the charge against the billboards is the pastor of a local black church.
The Rev. Alfred Thompkins, of Calvary Tabernacle, said the “I am gay” billboard message only encourages troubled youth to embrace homosexuality. “A thirteen-year-old looks at these billboards and says, ‘That must be it, I must be gay,’ ” he said. “That goes directly against God’s purpose. As a resident of Schenectady, a pastor who works with young people, with families, frankly I’m really bothered by the message these send.” Daycare provider Pamela Spicer told the City Council that the billboards were so vague they were worthless. “These messages are a failure. I think the Department of Health needs their money back,” she said. “The intent is to instruct them not to spread HIV if they have it … That does not come across in the message.” Instead, she said, the billboards allow “inappropriate sexual expression.” She argued that the messages should be limited to adult business zones — mainly industrial areas at the outskirts of the city.The daycare woman went on to complain that she is now forced to explain what "gay" means to two year-olds. City Councilman Joseph Allen agreed that the billboards will encourage young people to "become gay." Allen: "An adult, fine, you can do what you want. But who’s going to read these? Young people, vulnerable kids. They don’t say, ‘Adult only.’ " Allen then went on to call for legislation requiring the city council to approve the language on all billboards. A city attorney quickly advised him that that would be illegal.