Knox Commissioner Guthe declines questions, roundtable

Knox County Commissioner Phil Guthe (R) representative for Knox County’s south central 4th District, who has recently experienced increased visibility related to the Knox County Charter legal fiasco, has refused an invitation to participate in a political roundtable with local GLBT citizens.

Guthe, along with David Collins, Diane Jordan, John Griess, and Billy Tindell, has recently been party to a lawsuit seeking to overturn a Tennessee State Supreme Court ruling that upheld term limits approved by Knox County voters in a 1994 referendum. Recent developments include a decision on the part of Chancellor Weaver that completely invalidates the entire Knox County charter, based on a failure to register the charter with the state in a timely manner according the requirements of Tennessee law. The same rationale is given for the invalidation of the results of the term limit referendum.

To his credit, Guthe, a self-described “conservative Republican” indicated that he would be willing to rescind a Knox County resolution passed in 1993 during the nationwide build-up by religious radicals who traveled the country from coast to coast and border to border invading county governments and advocating resolutions such as the one passed in Knox County at that time. The resolution condemned homosexuality as an abomination before God. The decision surrounding the Knox County charter may indicate that this resolution is now moot, as all actions, decisions, and contracts may now be in jeopardy. In fact, the implications for lawsuits originating from this situation, covering the last 16 years, are overwhelming.

“This has no place in county government,” Guthe explained.

However when asked if he would favor employment nondiscrimination for Knox County employees, he ducked the question saying, “We are all protected by the Constitution of the United States.” Similar answers came to queries regarding employment discrimination faced by GLBTs in the private sector.

Finally, Mr. Guthe was asked if he would like to visit with local GLBT people in a roundtable discussion about similar issues, his response was a resounding and emphatic, “No!”

Sponsored locally by the Tennessee Equality Project and the Knoxville Human Rights Group, the series of roundtable discussions have included conversations with Reps. Bill Dunn, Harry Tindell, and Harry Brooks. Commissioner Guthe’s refusal is the first instance in which a public official declined to speak with the Knoxville GLBT community since the series of meetings began in 2004.

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