Meet Kim Driscoll, Mayor of Salem, MA, since 2006 and the city’s first female Mayor.
On July 9th, she terminated a contract with Gordon College over the school's support of a religious exemption to a federal regulation that bans discrimination in hiring based on sexual orientation.
The mayor of Salem, Mass., ended Gordon College's contract to operate the city-owned Old Town Hall this week when the school's president, along with 13 other religious leaders, signed a public letter to President Barack Obama asking him to include a religious exemption from a new executive order expected to require all federal contractors and subcontractors to hire LGBT persons, regardless of the organization's religious stance on homosexuality.
In an open letter to the president of the college, Mayor Driscoll wrote:
I am truly disappointed in the stance you have taken, which plainly discriminates against the rights of LGBT individuals, both on and off campus. These actions fly in the face of the City of Salem's Non-Discrimination Ordinance, which prohibits our municipality from contracting with entities that maintain discriminatory practices. While I respect your rights to embed religious values on a private college campus, religious freedom does not afford you the right to impose those beliefs upon others and cannot be extended into a publicly owned facility or any management contract for a publicly owned facility, like Old Town Hall. Moreover, I hope you realize how hurtful and offensive these "behavioural standards" are to members of the greater Salem LGBT community, some of whom are Gordon alumni, staff and/or students.
The president of Gordon College, Michael Lindsey, responded in his own letter:
Signing the letter was in keeping with our decades-old conviction that, as an explicitly Christian institution, Gordon should set the conduct expectations for members of our community. Nothing has changed in our position [...] Be assured that nothing has changed in our position regarding admission or employment. We have never barred categories of individuals from our campus and have no intention to do so now. We have always sought to be a place of grace and truth, and that remains the case.
Gordon College's own Facebook page received backlash over the decision:
Following this back-and-forth, the Mayor's office was quickly flooded with angry calls from right-wing supporters and conservatives – seemingly prompted by commentator Glenn Beck.
Mayor Kim Driscoll was not having it. She posted the following message to Facebook yesterday, along with an official letter.
Apparently, Glenn Beck is not happy about the City's stance terminating our contract with Gordon College…as a result, today we had over 50 phone calls from 'friends' in Texas, Georgia and similar locals looking to connect with "the Mayor" about this issue. Many of the callers began the conversation seeking to speak with the Mayor by asking if "he" was available…..Anyway, decided that we should start our own little "peoples pledge" effort with respect to these callers. So, I'm donating $5 to the North Shore Alliance of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Youth (Nagly) for each call I receive from Texas, Georgia, etc. in protest of our stance to terminate our contract with Gordon College. Feel free to join in on the pledge if you like!