Group against Homosexuality Stirs Students

Article excerpt

Byline: Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz Daily Herald Staff Writer

The simple information booth was supposed to provoke thought about the medical and sociological implications of homosexuality.

It didn't have a chance - not on a Tuesday afternoon in The Hub, a snack bar at Elgin Community College.

Amid a stream of students as diverse in ethnicity, religion and age as ECC provides, the booth lit a firestorm of debate on the First Amendment, the Bible, bias and, of course, the nature of homosexuality.

Two men representing Downers Grove-based Heterosexuals Organized for a Moral Environment gave out fliers making claims about the negative consequences of being gay.

"Students do more thinking on a controversial issue when we're here," said HOME member John McCartney, 73, a retired English teacher.

The students who surrounded the table were certainly thinking - not to mention quarreling, debating and sometimes yelling.

"It looks like a hate rally," said Nick Salzmann, 19. "They are taking some facts that might be true, but when we ask them to present proof, they can't back it up. They are manipulating statistics."

The claims made by HOME, attributed to newspapers and magazines, bothered sociology professor Patricia O'Brien.

"I believe in free speech, but I have a problem when what you are presenting is not grounded in scientific data," O'Brien said. "City newspapers and magazines? Those are not scientific databases."

O'Brien, adviser for the campus gay rights group GLOBES - Gays, Lesbians or Bisexual ECC Students and Supporters - said the debate about the origins of homosexuality continues with no definite answers, despite the efforts of the presidential candidates in their third debate.

Scientists have looked at hormonal levels, environment and family trends to pinpoint what determines sexual orientation, O'Brien said.

"It's the nature versus nurture issue," she said. "But at this point in time, how do you separate nature from nurture?"

McCartney said HOME's purpose was to present evidence demonstrating the negative consequences of homosexual behavior and to assert the group's constitutional right to free speech.

"We shouldn't be discriminated against," McCartney said. "We have a right to be here. This is a public institution."

But students worried that the group's presence would do more harm than good.

"This is a group that is stirring up resentment," Salzmann said. "I have no right to say they can't come here, but if it is racist, prejudiced, anything like that, that's where I draw the line."

Since January 2002, HOME has been allowed to set up a booth on campus once every semester, said Carole Akeman, ECC managing director of planning and marketing.

It is likely that the college will revisit that decision, as the school's primary concern is to provide a safe environment for its students, Akeman said. …