When Mayor Kim Driscoll ended a contract with Gordon College to manage a historic building in Salem because of the school’s violation of the city’s Non-Discrimination Ordinance, she started to get pummeled by national media personalities like Glenn Beck, which, in turn, led to more than 50 angry phone calls to her office from people out-of-state. And she expects even more.
But rather than merely fielding the inflammatory comments, which Driscoll described as “patently offensive views regarding [lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transexual] individuals,” Salem’s mayor decided to flip the negativity on its head.
“We are keeping a tally of these telephone calls,” Driscoll said in a recent letter that she shared with constituents on both her Facebook page and Twitter account. “For each one we receive, I will be making a donation of $5 to nAGLY [the North Shore Alliance of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Youth].”
The “people’s pledge,” phones calls, and attacks from “right-leaning” blogs like Beck’s came after Gordon College’s president filed for an exemption from federal regulations that bar employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, Driscoll said. The Christian school’s president was one of 14 religious leaders who signed and sent a letter to request the exemption to the White House, according to the Boston Globe.
The school’s stance on the LGBT community, which included policies for students to abide by that were anti-gay, violated a city ordinance. Because of that, she abruptly terminated the contract on July 9—the city already had plans to sever ties in August as part of a public art initiative—that put Gordon College in charge of managing the Old Town Hall facility, a historic site built in the 1800s.
“It saddens me to curb our contractual relationship in this manner, despite a long and positive relationship with Gordon College over the years,” Driscoll said when she announced she was ending the deal with the school. “However, not doing so would be a violation of our Non-Discrimination Ordinance and even more troubling, allow a contractual relationship between the city of Salem and an institution that enables, and now advocates for discrimination against the LGBT community. As Mayor, I most certainly cannot let that stand.”
When posting her follow-up letter prompted by the angry phone calls, Driscoll encouraged others to make similar donations matching her contributions as the city continues to keep track of the vitriol from what she jokingly called “‘friends’ in Texas, Georgia, and similar locals looking to connect.”
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