Publication:Johnson City Press; Date:Jul 20, 2008; Section:Insight; Page Number:1B


Family values never go out of style to some politicians

Robert Houk is Opinion page editor for the Johnson City Press. He can be reached at

    Some candidates try their best to keep their children out of the political spotlight. There are politicians who are uncomfortable with the idea of using their kids as a campaign prop.

    State Rep. Matthew Hill, RJonesborough, is not one of them. Not only is a photo of Hill holding his newborn son, Caleb, featured on two of his recent campaign mailouts, but the lawmaker also deemed it necessary on one to include an ultrasound image of his baby “at just 21 weeks!” OK, we get it. Hill is pro-life.

    He’s also for “family values,” a favorite Republican catchphrase from the 1990s. For Hill, family values means protecting heterosexual marriage from “radical liberal attacks.” That should be an easy job since Tennesseans approved a state constitutional referendum in 2006 forbidding same-sex marriage.

    You’d think the issue would have been laid to rest, but thanks to the liberal judges in California, gay marriage is once again an issue in the culture wars. And leave it to a far-right extremist organization like the American Family Association to stumble on its own bigoted rhetoric in a shabby attempt to exploit it. Recently, the group called for a boycott of McDonald’s because the restaurant chain believes all families — gay or straight — should be treated fairly under the law.

    The AFA would still be laboring in obscurity had it not been for a major gaffe the group made on its Web site. The organization has a strict policy to replace the word “gay” with “homosexual” on the Web site of its Christian news outlet,

    The AFA’s automated system for changing the prohibited word resulted in the Web site publishing an Associated Press story about a world-class sprinter named “Tyson Homosexual” who qualified for the Beijing Olympics. There was just one problem: Tyson’s last name is Gay. The software changed the wire story about Tyson Gay’s Olympic qualifying trial to read: “Tyson Homosexual was a blur in blue, sprinting 100 meters faster than anyone ever has.”

    Right-wingers argue that homosexuals are fast, but probably not in this way.

    Meanwhile, Todd Smith, Hill’s opponent in the GOP primary for the 7th District seat in the state House of Representatives, says there is one thing the incumbent has failed to mention in his campaign brochures regarding his service in Nashville: He has been woefully ineffective. Smith recently sponsored a night at the ballpark with the Johnson City Cardinals and it just so happened that state Rep. Dale Ford, RJonesborough, was behind the plate for the Appy League game. Ford said he was asked to umpire the game about a month before Smith signed on as its sponsor.

    “I’m staying neutral in this primary,” Ford told me last week. He said the same is true for the Republican race for 1st District seat.

    Gov. Phil Bredesen sent a very clear message last week, however, as to whom he would like to see represent Carter County in the state House. Bredesen, a Democrat, joined incumbent Rep. Kent Williams, RElizabethton, in touring a road widening project in Gap Creek. Bredesen also said nice things about Williams, who faces a challenge from former Rep. Jerome Cochran, R-Elizabethton. By the way, Cochran hasn’t had a lot of nice things to say about the governor.

Robert Houk