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Gays Urged To Renounce Homosexuality

October 12, 1999

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ Activists accused the Rev. Jerry Falwell of promoting violence such as the beating death of a gay Wyoming college student as he led conservative Christians in urging gays to renounce homosexuality.

``Christian bigots out of our city!″ cried Josh Trenter, who was hauled away by police after allegedly tossing a blueberry pie during Monday’s ``Come Out of Homosexuality″ event. He and another member of a gay rights group were cited for battery and released.

Declaring that ``God loves you and so do I,″ Falwell, who appeared via satellite, told the audience of about 60 that ``just as people can come out of the closet, so can people choose to come out against a sinful lifestyle.″

The presentation was designed ``to reach out to the homosexual community in a spirit of love,″ said Allen Wildmon, a spokesman for the American Family Association, a conservative Christian group that sponsored the event with Falwell, the former leader of the now-defunct Moral Majority.

``This is not to force anybody’s views on anyone,″ said Wildmon, who timed the lecture to counter publicity from National Coming Out Day, an annual event celebrating gay life. ``We all have a freedom of choice in America.″

The event came as jury selection began in the first-degree murder trial of Aaron McKinney, accused of killing gay college student Matthew Shepard in Laramie, Wyo. Falwell condemned Shepard’s killers and said the lecture’s timing was coincidental.

The timing ``was very tacky,″ said San Francisco Supervisor Tom Ammiano, who has long been active in the gay rights movement. ``I think it’s extremely disrespectful and I think it reflects the depth of their insensitivity and self-serving agenda.″

Fellow Supervisor Leslie Katz agreed.

``There’s such hatred that comes out in that approach. It implies people can change,″ Katz said. ``That’s the behavior that results in people on the fringes committing grievous acts against others.″

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