Friday, November 16, 2007

Anti-gay Marriage sign draws fire

Anti-gay marriage sign draws fire Southport businessman's viewpoint upsets some Tiers residents. November 13, 2007 By Ray Fingerrfinger@stargazette.comStar-Gazette
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Zoom Photo RAY FINGER/Star-GazetteThis sign, placed in a window about a month ago at Auto Home and Family Insurance Center in Southport, makes it clear where business owner Rick Piper stands on gay marriage.

With conviction as firm as his handshake, a Southport business owner has put up a sign at his insurance agency to take a stand against same-sex marriages in New York state.But some people say they are appalled by the sign and call it discriminatory.Rick Piper, 56, owner of Auto Home and Family Insurance Center on Broadway, put a sign in the window of the business about a month ago that says "Save the kids -- Say no to gay marriage in NY." He is very clear about his reason for doing it."It's sin, that's all," he said, alluding to passages in the Bible against homosexuality. "It's not so much about how I feel about it. It's not an issue with me. It's an issue with God."While the state Senate is not expected to act on the issue anytime soon, the state Assembly voted 85-61 earlier this year to legalize same-sex marriage."I don't think many people know about it," Piper said at his office Monday. "Hopefully, it will help them to know and they can make up their own mind."Several people who have seen the sign said they don't feel it is proper for a business."This is America, and everyone has a right to freedom of speech and whatnot, but in front of a business is a little much," said Breanna Moyer of Elmira. "You can't tell me that they don't have gay customers, and they're discriminating against them. By God, they don't have a problem taking their money from them."A member of First Church of the Nazarene in Corning, Piper said he did not discuss his decision to put up the sign with anyone, nor did he pray about it. He just knew that same-sex marriage is wrong, and he had to stand up and be counted, he said."It doesn't have anything to do with customers," he said of his decision. "God says it's wrong, so there's not that much there for me to guess about. I believe it."Even so, he has heard comments about the sign that have been probably about 98 percent positive, he said.Progressive Insurance, among the companies that Piper represents, also had nothing to do with the sign."These are clearly the beliefs of the agency and are not shared by us," said Leslie Kolleda, a spokeswoman for the company, based in Mayfield Village, Ohio."Independent agents are not employees of any company. They represent multiple companies," she said. "Progressive happens to be the largest distributor of car insurance through independent agents."Julie Martinez of Elmira said the sign is not professional."It's just horrible," she said. "I hope they go out of business, to be honest with you."The sign's reference to children really upset Martinez, who points out that homosexuals can also be good parents. "I've seen it. A lot of my family and most of my friends are gay. They're very good parents," she said.That was a sentiment shared by Noel Kratzer of Elmira, who describes herself as gay and a drag king who performs at Club Chill and Angles in Elmira."Honestly, there are a lot of gay couples that are saving kids who don't have homes, who don't have anything. So we are saving kids," she said."I felt like it's a really big slam toward us," Kratzer said of the sign. "It's discriminating. You wouldn't post signs about black people or a person of another race."Why would you want to lose business over something that doesn't even really concern you?"This is not the first time Piper, whose has been in business at the site for 10 years, has put up a controversial a sign. Others have included a sign to stop partial-birth abortions, he said.While efforts were unsuccessful Monday to obtain comment from First Church of the Nazarene in Corning, the Rev. Gary McCaslin, pastor of First Baptist Church of Painted Post, offered his thoughts:"The problem with using the Bible that way is that the Bible was also the primary document used in the advocation of slavery, and also to keep women out of the voting booths," McCaslin said."We've moved beyond that, so it's time we moved beyond using the Bible as a weapon in the issue of homosexuality also."

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