"(Gays) don’t need a special Bill of Rights," Boone, NC in 1981


President Plemmons' letter to politicans (1981)

Although Appalachian State University President William H. Plemmons did not explicitly offer his written opinion on LGBT issues during his tenure as president (1956-1969), he did participate in a national letter-writing movement a decade after his retirement, presenting evidence of his probable perspective. In 1981, Plemmons’ church, First Baptist Church of Boone, circulated a national petition opposing H.R. 1454, “the Gay Bill of Rights."[1] H.R. 1454 was designed to add “affectional and sexual orientation” to Title VII of the Civil Rights Bill of 1964.[2] After signing the petition, Plemmons wrote on university stationery to each North Carolina Congressional Delegation member to repeat and emphasize his opposition to the bill.

In the letter, Plemmons explains that “our first Ten Amendments is a Bill of Rights for everyone, including ‘gays.’ We don’t need a special one for them.” Plemmons’ language about special rights mirrors modern conservative discourse on LGBT rights, which label the extension of employment and marriage rights to LGBT individuals as “special rights.” He also "strongly oppose[d] allocation or expenditure of a single penny of federal funds for any Gay benefits. Sometimes it [was] hard for [him] to support every aspect of our Bill of Rights, especially as interpreted for Gay’s [sic] and others of their kind. Certainly they don’t need a special Bill of Rights."[3]

That he watched his successors at Appalachian officially recognize the Appalachian Gay Awareness Association in 1979 may have played a part in Plemmons’ vehemence.


  1. William Plemmons to Ike Andrews, 27 August 1981, Congressional Delegation, 1981 folder, William Plemmons Papers.
  2. Congressional Research Service, Digest of Public General Bills and Resolutions 97th Congress, 1st Session (Washington, DC: Library of Congress, 1981), E-146.
  3. William Plemmons to Jim [Broyhill], 30 July 1981, Congressional Delegation, 1981 folder, William Plemmons Papers.