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July 10, 2014

Salem mayor, Kim Driscoll, cuts ties with Gordon College over gay rights

Driscoll 'truly disappointed' in college's policies regarding sexual orientation

SALEM — Citing Gordon College’s “blatantly” discriminatory policy toward gays and lesbians, Mayor Kim Driscoll yesterday terminated the school’s contract to manage the city-owned Old Town Hall.

In a letter to Gordon President Michael Lindsay, Driscoll said the college’s policies forbidding homosexual practice “fly in the face” of the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance, which prohibits the city from contracting with organizations that have discriminatory practices.

“While I respect your right 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 public owned facility, like Old Town Hall,” Driscoll wrote.

Driscoll said she made the decision after Lindsay signed on to a July 1 letter urging President Obama to include a religious exemption in an executive order that would ban organizations from receiving federal contracts if they discriminate against gays and lesbians in their hiring practices.

Driscoll said she was “truly disappointed” in Lindsay’s position and the college’s policies regarding sexual orientation.

“I hope you realize how hurtful and offensive these ‘behavioral standards’ are to members of the greater Salem LGBT community, some of whom are Gordon alumni, staff and/or students,” she wrote.

The city has partnered with Gordon College since 2008 in running Old Town Hall, where the production of “Cry Innocent” and The Salem Museum are based. The city had planned to take over management of Old Town Hall at the end of August, but Driscoll said she is now terminating the contract with Gordon College effective Tuesday.

Driscoll said she expects “Cry Innocent,” which has been performed in Salem since 1992, to continue without interruption. She said both History Alive!, which stages “Cry Innocent,” and the Gordon Institute for Public History, which runs The Salem Museum, can continue to operate if they sign a nondiscrimination agreement with the city.

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