Eighth District Republican congressional candidate Ron Kirkland made comments that seemed to condone violence against gay service members at a Tea Party forum in Paris, Tennessee Thursday night.
Candidates at the forum were discussing their views on the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, which Kirkland supports. According to the Jackson Sun, during the discussion, Kirkland said of his days serving in Vietnam: "I can tell you if there were any homosexuals in that group, they were taken care of in ways I can't describe to you."
Another candidate — Randy Smith — followed with this: "I definitely wouldn't want to share a shower with a homosexual. We took care of that kind of stuff, just like (Kirkland) said."
The comments fueled a backlash from gay rights advocates. Though Smith apologized, maintaining that he has a gay daughter, Kirkland has remained unapologetic. Kirkland attempted to explain his refusal to apologize in this letter to the editor of the Jackson Sun:
Since recent reports have been published about the Tea Party Forum in Paris on Thursday evening and my defense of the “Don't ask, don't tell” policy in the U.S. military, I have been attacked by liberal forces from all over the country. Allow me to be perfectly clear. I will not back down. When any of us is cowered into apologizing for speaking the truth, our constitutional freedoms are diminished, not increased.
The 8th District includes Millington and a few other small towns at the northern edge of Shelby County, as well as Madison, Lauderdale, and Tipton Counties.
In this YouTube video, the Tennessee Equality Project is calling on Kirkland to apologize, and they're encouraging equality supporters to contact Kirkland's campaign.