Watson stands by his 'queer' comment

 

State Rep. Eric Watson is unapologetic for his use of the word “queer” while promoting the Tennessee Marriage Protection Amendment last week.

During a rally at the Hamilton County Courthouse last Wednesday, the Republican representative said it will “be a sad day when queers and lesbians are allowed to get married” and “kiss in front of the Courthouse.”

Watson has been criticized by some groups since his speech, but in an interview with The Daily Post-Athenian, the District 22 representative said he has received no personal backlash.

Watson, who represents Meigs, Polk and parts of Bradley County, said he thought “queer” was a common term used by homosexuals. He said it is “a name they claim.”

“The ones that don´t like to be called that are the ones that hide in the closet, so to speak,” Watson said.

“If they are ashamed of that name, they shouldn´t be holding up signs and wearing shirts,” during pro-gay rallies and marches, he said.

Watson also said the term “queer” has become a part of the pop-culture lexicon with multiple references on the Internet and television.

“Look it up on the Internet and you´ll find queer.com, and that TV show, what´s it called, 'Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.´”

Chris Sanders, the president-elect of the Tennessee Equality Project, denounced the state representative´s use of the word “queer.” He accused Watson of “name calling” and attempting to cloud the controversy surrounding the Marriage Protection Amendment Act.

“At one level I´m delighted (Watson) watches 'Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,´ but he hasn´t learned any lessons from it,” said Sanders, whose Tennessee Equality Project was formed to fight the Marriage Protection Amendment, as well as to advance and to protect gay rights in the state.

“Name calling is a distraction in this debate. He clearly meant it in a derogatory manner.”

Watson´s comments have also been criticized by realmarriage.org, which touts itself as a coalition to protect Tennessee marriage.

Jerry Flowers, executive director of realmarriage.org, was quoted in Chattanooga media outlets last week as saying the word “queer” “carriers with it significant emotional and pejorative connotations with which we do not wish to associate.”

Flowers could not be reached for further comment.

Watson said he will continue to fight for the Marriage Protection Amendment, which has passed through the Legislature and could be on the ballot for public approval in November if it clears court challenges by the American Civil Liberties Union.

Watson said his district is primarily conservative, and staunchly supports the Marriage Protection act. He said a constituent survey last year showed that 92 percent of the survey´s 4,600 respondents are against same-sex unions.

“We´re going to take a stand against same-sex marriage,” Watson said.

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E-mail: rharris@xtn.net

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