Carolyn Wagner and Fayetteville’s Campaign for Human Dignity | Street Jazz

Friday, January 21, 2011

Carolyn Wagner and Fayetteville’s Campaign for Human Dignity

Posted By on Fri, Jan 21, 2011 at 9:12 AM

My old friend Carolyn Wagner died in Tulsa this past week. After her son was the victim of a brutal gay bashing at the hands of fellow Fayetteville high school students in 1996, Carolyn was a tireless defender of the rights of gay and lesbian Americans.

In the late 1990s she was involved with the attempt to pass the Human Dignity Resolution in Fayetteville. This is the story of a group she was with, the Campaign for Human Dignity.

Thanks, Carolyn, for everything you tried to do to make the world a better place.

Turning the Tide
Campaign hopes to preserve Human Dignity Resolution

The autumn election season is already heating up, with various candidates declaring for office, and search committees being formed to look for candidates to represent all sides of the political spectrum. One of the issues which has already had a large impact on the face of politics in Northwest Arkansas is the Human Dignity Resolution, which the Fayetteville City Council passed this spring. The Resolution, which affirms that the city of Fayetteville will not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, has drawn fire from a number of conservative religious groups.

Soon after, a successful attempt was made to garner enough signatures to force the whole issue onto the ballot in November. At that point, the voters of Fayetteville will decide whether or not they want the Resolution to stand.

One group, the Campaign for Human Dignity, has recently sprung into being to convince voters of why the resolution is so important. According to Carolyn Wagner, a member of the group, many people have called to volunteer their time and energy to ensure that the Resolution stays in place.

Wagner says that the group’s sole purpose is to support the Resolution; after the November election, the group will cease to exist.

Education of voters is very high on the group’s list of “things to do.” Some of the methods used will include public service announcements, fact sheets, letters to newspapers, fund-raisers, and going from door to door.

There will also be a strong emphasis on voter registration.

In Fayetteville, there is expected to be strong opposition to the Resolution. Certainly, the Fayetteville City Council meetings during which the matter was first introduced were heavily attended by those against the proposal, as well as supporters.

In many cities, opponents of such resolutions have fought hard (and often well-financed) campaigns, which have included media blitzes.

While such campaigns have often been successful in the past, Carolyn Wagner feels that the tide is turning. Wagner, whose son William was the victim of a gay-bashing in 1996, has been researching this issue for several years, ever since her son told his parents that he was gay. She says, “Parents, and especially PFLAG have been more successful in education. I think there are a lot more reasonable people in this nation than many give credit for.”

The issue is one in which a campaign of misinformation has been waged, including unfounded accusations that the resolution would provide job protection to sexual predators, those who prey on children. Another canard is the accusation that the resolution would financially destroy Fayetteville, in the event of increased insurance claims. Wagner scoffs at this.

“The facts are on our side. There is not one city that has suffered financially in a negative way from the adoption of such a resolution.”

It was through her research that she became aware of PFLAG (Parents, Family and Families of Lesbians and Gays), a group she is currently very active in.

Those involved with the Campaign for Human Dignity will be working to make it very clear to the voters of Fayetteville exactly what the resolution does and does not mean. It means that your private life is your own, and that one adult can love another adult, without fear that their job will be jeopardized.

Many of those involved in the Campaign for Human Dignity are ordinary people, the mothers and fathers of the community. Wagner says that the whole spectrum of political and social thought is represented by those who have volunteered for the campaign. They are men and women who care about their community, and the people who live in that community. They realize that once government allows discrimination against any group, there is little to protect others groups in the future.

Carolyn Wagner is a firm believer that “we can learn from history,” and that the mistakes of the past don't of necessity have to be made again.

There are others in Arkansas and across the United States who are watching Fayetteville very closely at this moment. How this election goes may determine how other communities deal with this issue.

Ozark Gazette - June 29, 1998

rsdrake@cox.net


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