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Commission plans public forum on same-sex issue

The Fargo Human Relations Commission will go ahead with a community discussion on the proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage - this time billing it as a "forum" rather than a "dialogue."...

The Fargo Human Relations Commission will go ahead with a community discussion on the proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage - this time billing it as a "forum" rather than a "dialogue."

The commission voted unanimously Wednesday to invite the North Dakota Family Alliance, which initiated the measure, and Equality North Dakota, which opposes it, to publicly discuss the issue later this month.

The forum would not be a debate, so the discussion can still take place if the Family Alliance once again declines to participate, commission members said.

The Family Alliance refused to take part in a dialogue the commission had scheduled for Monday.

The alliance was disturbed that the Human Relations Commission took a formal stance against the amendment, which would define marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

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The Family Alliance also did not approve of the speaker against the amendment, the Rev. Steve Kindle, executive director of Clergy United for Equality of Homosexuals. Kindle suggested the debate and offered to be the speaker.

"I really don't blame them," said Human Relations Commission member Jonny Huang, who originally voted against Kindle as the speaker.

"It's like inviting John Kerry to come to New York to debate George Bush at the Republican National Convention."

Huang will contact the Family Alliance to see under what circumstances it would participate in a dialogue.

While some members did not want to cater to the alliance, all agreed having both viewpoints present is preferable.

But John Trombley, chairman of the Family Alliance, said Wednesday a new format and speaker are not enough for the group to participate.

He said the alliance does not believe the Human Relations Commission is capable of hosting an objective forum.

"They kind of shot themselves in the foot as far as I'm concerned," Trombley said. "We appreciate the invitation. But I can't trust them, frankly."

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The alliance will debate Equality North Dakota on Prairie Public Television, Trombley said. That debate will be taped Sept. 29.

And Equality North Dakota, along with the Pride Collective, is sponsoring a public lecture, "In Defense of Same-Sex Marriage," at 7 p.m. Sept. 15 in the meeting room of the Fargo Public Library, Equality chairman Robert Uebel said. The presenter is Larry Peterson, professor of history at North Dakota State University. Uebel wants the discussion to move forward regardless of the Family Alliance. "I think it speaks volumes if they decide not to be there," he said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Sherri Richards at (701) 241-5525

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