Cruel crusade: the holy war against lesbians and gays.
With footage heavily suggestive of last spring's Los Angeles riots, this opening scene of the slick documentary, The Gay Agenda, is obviously intended to strike fear and alarm into the hearts of straight America. But this is San Francisco, September 29, 1991, and lesbian and gay activists have unleashed their fury over Governor Pete Wilson's veto of a statewide antidiscrimination bill.
The riot is an example of what happens when gays mobilize, the film declares, "just one part of an aggressive nationwide offensive aimed at every segment of society to force the acceptance and approval of their chosen lifestyle." A shot of one protester's sign declaring a "Queer Holy War" drives the point home.
The deliberately "shocking" video was a powerful weapon in the Colorado campaign to prohibit local ordinances protecting lesbian and gay rights, the Far Right's most significant anti-gay victory to date. Touring with the tape around the state, leaders of Colorado for Family Values easily persuaded thousands of church and community groups that "gay power is growing" - and must be stopped.
As July approaches - President Clinton's self-imposed deadline for fully integrating lesbians and gays into the armed forces - the homophobic hysteria is bound to reach an even more fevered pitch.
While accusing lesbians and gays of dismantling the foundations of Western civilization, the religious Right itself has quietly and strategically mounted an all-out attack of hatred and bigotry against lesbians and gays. The culture war is on, and gays and lesbians are the enemy for the 1990s. The religious Right has made opposition to homosexuality the centerpiece of its national agenda, and it is taking its crusade to states and communities around the country.
Last November, both Colorado's Amendment 2 and the unsuccessful Measure 9 in Oregon proposed to overturn existing municipal laws that defend lesbians and gays against discrimination in employment and housing. But Oregon's "Abnormal Behavior Measure" also tried to mandate that the state and public institutions actively discourage homosexuality, to teach that it is "wrong, unnatural, and perverse."
The passage of Colorado's Amendment 2, the country's first statewide ban on gay-rights laws, marked the culmination of a calculated campaign of defamation. A massive boycott of the state and a recent lawsuit that has produced an emergency injunction against the amendment helped stave off this latest high-profile attack on lesbians and gays. But Colorado may be just the beginning.
The religious Right scored many significant political gains last year. Their successful referenda defeating gay rights in Colorado and in Tampa and Temple Terrace, Florida, as well as the slim margin in Oregon (56 to 44 per cent), have given fundamentalist leaders encouragement to draft further anti-gay initiatives and branch out into other fertile territory - primarily rural, working-class communities.
Oregon Citizen's Alliance leader Lon Mabon has already helped form "family values" groups to work against gay rights in Idaho and Washington, and in his concession speech on election night, he vowed to return to Oregon with a "Colorado-style" referendum. The Far Right is sponsoring anti-gay legislation in at least twelve other states - California, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Ohio, and Washington are currently targets - and its leaders plan to move the effort into thirty-five states over the course of the next two years.
"There is a very serious and dangerous threat to democracy in this country, and the spearhead is the rollback of civil rights for gays," says Robert Bray of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. In an orchestrated campaign to sweep away gay rights, the religious Right is working to repeal all 130 lesbian and gay antidiscrimination laws in the United States.
But lesbians and gays are responding actively: They were instrumental in President Clinton's election, raising more than $3 million for the campaign and accounting for what even the straight press admitted to be between 4 and 5 per cent of ballots cast nationwide - a bloc as large as the Jewish vote.
"We are for the first time in history part of the governing coalition in this country," says Bray. "What we are seeing now is a highly sophisticated, well-financed grass-roots backlash to growing gay visibility."
As threatening as the political attacks against lesbians and gays are, activists see the backlash itself as evidence of the movement's growing clout. The Republican Party staged seven anti-gay speeches at its national convention last summer, says Advocate columnist Donna Minkowitz, because party strategists banked on voters "quaking in terror" at recent lesbian and gay political successes.
"The Republicans chose us as the focal point for their convention because of the success of our movement, not its failure," she contends. "Like violence against our community, anti-gay attacks by politicians increase in direct proportion to our political gains."
In addition to the religious Right's strategic organizing against gay-rights legislation, there is a less blatant but just as alarming" development, says Bray: the insidious ascendancy of far-right "representatives and operatives" to important second-and third-tier levels of government.
Last November, fundamentalist Christian candidates won hundreds of races across the country for seats on school boards, neighborhood advisory committees, city councils, and state legislatures, establishing the religious Right as a major grass-roots political force and giving the movement a "tremendous base to build on."
"We focused on where the real power is: in the states and in the precincts and in the neighborhoods where people live and work," says Ralph Reed, executive director of the Christian Coalition, the political empire of televangelist Pat Robertson. Founded in 1989, the tax-exempt coalition boasts a $13 million campaign war chest and has 250,000 members with 550 chapters in fifty states. It calls the struggle against lesbians and gays the "Second Civil War."
According to the liberal lobbying group People for the American Way, Christian conservatives across the country won about 40 per cent of the 500 races the group monitored last year, including two seats in Congress, six state legislative races in lowa, and eleven in Kansas.
"It is possible for a militant group to move in and take over an election if they just work hard," says John Buchanan of People for the American Way.
The religious Right's windfall electoral gains reflect the Christian Coalition's 1988 decision to shift its drive from Presidential to local politics. Joining forces with other right-wing "family" groups such as the Eagle Forum, the Traditional Values Coalition, and Citizens for Excellence in Education, the fundamentalists have created a religious junta to advance their agenda - banning abortion, curtailing the rights of women, lesbians, and gays, fighting for "choice" in education, censoring school texts and library books, mandating school prayer, blocking multicultural curricula, and teaching abstinence and creationism in public schools.
Christian Coalition leaders are already gearing up for 1994 mid-term elections, and they expect even lower voter turnout and lighter press scrutiny to help their cause. Their candidates typically obscure their affiliations with the religious Right and often avoid public appearances and debate, aware that secrecy may be their best weapon.
"Keep clergymen in the background," literature from Focus on the Family, a Colorado Springs group, advises. "In San Francisco, polling data showed that public opinion of the city's pastors was highly negative.... Do not seek publicity."
This tactic worked impressively in 1990 in what has become known as the "San Diego model," when fifty-eight little-known conservative Christians won seats on the city council and boards overseeing schools, hospitals, and public utilities.
"It's not always the best idea to go down there with trumpets blaring and flags waving," fundamentalist minister Jay Grimstead told reporters after the 1990 victories. "So these people essentially did not announce loudly that they were pro-life and pro-family-values."
While the Far Right's national network consists of disparate conservative groups with different ideas about some issues, Bray says, "they are united in their campaign to attack gays."
When George Bush's campaign manager met with gay activists last April, Far Right leaders - including John Land of the Southern Baptist Convention, Gary Bauer of the Family Research Council, Beverly LaHaye of Concerned Women for America, and Bob Jones III of Bob Jones University - called an emergency meeting with the President, demanding that he repudiate the meeting and publicly disavow gay rights. Within a week, White House Press Secretary Marlin Fitzwater announced the President's opposition to the Federal lesbian and gay civil-rights bill. Bush, previously considered something of a moderate on social issues, told The New York Times that he does not consider homosexuality "normal."
More recently, "licking their wounds from the Presidential loss," as Bray puts it, members of the religious Right have found more anti-gay issues to rally around. In January, the Christian Coalition and the militant anti-abortion group Operation Rescue joined forces in a movement they call "the Resistance," and held demonstrations across the country to protest lesbians and gays in the military.
"When Operation Rescue identifies overturning gay civil rights as a key agenda, perhaps even exceeding abortion, then you know that clearly the new strategy of the Far Right is to attack gays," says Bray.
A man in a loincloth towers over a woman lying spread-eagle at his feet. The man holds a club over his head, ready to smite the prone woman. This scene - frozen in a statue on Lon Mabon's desk - no doubt provides Mabon with endless inspiration in his holy war against "evil flesh."
During an otherwise unrelenting political campaign, a television profile of the anti-gay leader - including the revealing shots of his office decor - gave Oregon activists some amusing insights into the character of their arch-rival. But to lesbian and gay activists, the best part of the show was unintentional. According to the Portland lesbian and gay newspaper Just Out, a TV reporter inadvertently captured on film a stack of "No on 9" lawn signs in the Oregon Citizen's Alliance office (OCA sponsored Measure 9).
"If your sign has disappeared, give OCA a call," a Just Out columnist advised readers. "I'm certain that if through some mix-up they have your sign, they'd be happy to return it.... I'm sure neither the respectable folks at OCA nor their supporters would ... ever violate the biblical commandment not to steal."
If Measure 9 had passed, many forms of support for lesbian and gay rights would have been criminalized and legally suppressed. State-owned public broadcasting outlets would have been forced to ban pro-gay programming; state licensing boards would have turned down businesses with nondiscrimination policies and those deemed "perverse"; gay organizations and individuals could have been denied use of such public facilities as parks and public meeting rooms; books with any positive references to homosexuality would have been removed from public libraries; school textbooks would have been cleansed; AIDS treatment centers could have been closed, and employers and landlords would have been allowed to evict "abnormal" employees and tenants.
From its beginnings in 1986, OCA initiated campaigns throughout the state against such "family" issues as abortion and the National Endowment for the Arts, often in vain. But in 1988, the group discovered gay-bashing as a lucrative, winning ticket, and used it to overturn a gubernatorial decree prohibiting employment discrimination against gays and lesbians in state government.
Mabon needed cash badly - faced with heavy fines for campaign violations, he was falling behind on his taxes and rent. Soon enough, organizing against gay rights filled OCA's coffers. In 1992, the campaign for Measure 9 raised more than $1 million, which provided jobs not only for Mabon but also for his wife, parents, and two sons. State Representative Gail Shibley jokes that the measure should be renamed the "Mabon Family Full-Employment Act."
"The money they've raised on this campaign could not have been raised on any other issue," says Donna Red Wing, director of the Portland Lesbian Community Project. Small donations poured in from all over the state, adding up to some $600,000 of OCA:s budget.
Publishing more than 1.25 million glossy pro-9 fliers with all this funding, OCA linked gay rights to pedophilia, bestiality, and necrophilia, describing AIDS as God's wrath. Monogamy is "virtually unknown" in the gay "lifestyle," the leaflets assert - the "typical homosexual" has between twenty and 106 partners each year.
Investigating one citation to the 1980 New England Journal of Medicine, journalist Louise Sloan uncovered what many lesbians and gays suspected: The statistic does not exist. Still, much of the religious Right's literature appears convincing because of its copious references to such starchy, mainstream publications as The Wall Street Journal and the U.S. Census Abstract. Once various damaging "facts" and statistics have been absorbed by the public, activists find it almost impossible to explain away the lies.
"What is so dramatic about the Far Right's campaign at this- point is its new sophistication in creating and shaping the language of public debate," says Bray. "In the past, they pretty much hung themselves - like Robertson saying that stupid thing about baby-killing witch lesbians. We could always depend on them, because of their extreme views, to alienate people."
Now aware that frothing bigotry and blatant gay-bashing turn off voters, the Right has mastered the new "scientific" vilification of lesbians and gays. "To fight successfully against gay-rights proposals," Roger Magnuson writes in his book Are Gay Rights Right?, "citizens must arm themselves with facts that serve as an objective confirmation of their moral reservations about homosexual behavior."
Promoting kinder and gentler homophobia for the 1990s, a Colorado for Family Values (CFV) brochure stresses a commitment to traditional civil rights and abhorrence of "violence and abuse of any sort generated by bigotry and hatred." Gays are not victims of discrimination, the brochures claim, but are, in fact, economically and educationally privileged. CFV leaflets highlight gays' "average income" as $55,000 a year, asserting that gays are thirteen times more likely than straights to be Frequent Fliers.
In perhaps its most persuasive rhetoric, the Far Right calls lesbian and gay discrimination bans "special rights." "Homosexuals claim they need special legal privileges that, among other things, would permit them to silence or punish their critics, coerce businesses to pay spousal benefits to their all-too-temporary partners, and express their sexuality whenever, wherever and with whomever they choose," one pamphlet reads.
"It's effective because it separates us out in a way that seems like we already have basic civil rights," says Cat Morgan of the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Colorado. "People are not looking at the reality that we don't."
But without antidiscrimination laws that specifically include sexual orientation, lesbians and gays can be kicked out of their apartments, denied service in restaurants and hotels, and fired from their jobs simply because of their sexual orientation.
The Right has turned this around, raising the specter of "gay quotas" stealing jobs from "normal" working people. "It's basically playing off racism, the paranoia some Americans have that minorities are getting a "special shake,'" asserts Donald Suggs of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.
"There is a small group of affluent white lesbians and gay men who are socially prominent and very visible, but they are not representative of the community as a whole," says Suggs. "To characterize lesbians and gays as wealthy is like portraying Jews as all being greedy rich merchants. It's an attempt to put a stereotype on a community to set people against us."
Despite the effectiveness of the "special-rights" logic, Suggs says he actually sees the religious Right's promotion of it as an encouraging sign. "In the past, you wouldn't have to say people were trying to give lesbians and gays special rights; they would have stood against lesbians and gays having civil rights," he says. "So this whole special-rights argument means that the Right has to pretend lesbians and gay men are asking for more than our fair share in order to be successful in their campaigns against us."
Another tactic the Far Right uses "fairly brilliantly," adds Bray, is posing minority against minority, accusing gays and lesbians of taking away hard-won rights from what they call "legitimate disadvantaged minorities."
"In Colorado, they're doing this successfully in the Latino community in particular," says Bray: " |See, we told you homosexuals were looking for special rights; they're behind this boycott, and you're going to lose your job because your company is being boycotted.'"
The ploy simply appeals to economic and cultural anxieties. "Suddenly, they're the so-called ally and defender of people of color against the homosexual threat," says Bray.
Jay Grimstead, director of Coalition for Revival, has been working for years to unite fundamentalists of all types against gay rights and abortion. He is part of the "reconstructionist" movement that seeks to "rebuild American government" with laws derived from a literal interpretation of the Old Testament.
Under the legal system envisioned by reconstructionists, practicing homosexuals and physicians who perform abortions would be subject to the death penalty.
"Homosexuality makes God vomit," Grimstead told an interviewer from The Advocate. "Anything that goes against what the Scripture tells us is wrong."
Many anti-gay Christians quote the Book of Leviticus as evidence: "If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death" (20:13). A word-for-word translation of this verse appeared in the original legislation in the colonies of Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, and Connecticut expanded the law to include lesbianism.
Although capital punishment for homosexuality was repealed in all states by 1873, almost half still outlaw same-sex relations between consenting adults. And in 1986, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of Georgia's sodomy statute, stating that "proscriptions against [homosexual] conduct have ancient roots."
Grimstead stops short of working for the death penalty himself, instead advocating jail terms for gays. In his interpretation of a "biblical society," the only people not in prison would be "heterosexuals who are not adulterers."
"I receive a lot of flak for this from my Christian friends, but I would be content if we could get back to the legal situation of the 1950s, when there were laws on the books against homosexual acts and abortion," he told The Advocate. "That for now would satisfy most of the men I work with."
Grimstead says the question of capital punishment "awaits further study," but he refuses to denounce those who push for it. "I think that deep down he believes homosexuals should be executed," says Fred Clarkson, a journalist who has written extensively on the religious Right. "But even if he has backed away from that position, the question is, |OK, you're on the fence about the death penalty, but on the other hand, you are dealing with reconstructionists who don't have any doubts. When push comes to shove, what side are you going to be on?' "
Fringe fanatics like Grimstead and leading reconstructionist R.J. Rushdoony of the Rutherford Institute, who provided campaign material to anti-gay activists in both Oregon and Colorado, worry some conservatives. When the far-right Citizens for Liberty recently gained control of Santa Clara County's Republican committee, the more moderate California Republican League warned the party's rank-and-file members that the group's agenda includes "a call for the death penalty for abortion, adultery, and unrepentant homosexuality."
In its media campaign, Colorado for Family Values has explicitly distanced itself from such rabid fundamentalism. But some gay activists see this as only an extension of the "stealth" tactic, a cover-up of the group's long-term plans.
The group's intolerance goes beyond homosexuality. Last May, CVF pressured the Colorado Springs school board into barring gays and pagans from a high-school diversity panel. And after the Amendment 2 victory, CVF announced several new aims, including censoring school textbooks and establishing compulsory prayer in schools.
Mabon, who is serving as an adviser to right-wing groups waging battles across the nation, now claims that Measure 9's intent was "distorted" by the opposition. "If we just back off and reword this thing," he says, "I think we can win quite handily."
A block-long formation of leather-clad "Dykes on Bikes" roars past. Men covered in gold body-paint gyrate to what can only be called satanic rock music. Bare-breasted women wearing facial war paint and grass skirts drum pagan beats. Uniformed "masters" hold leashes chained to their crawling "slaves." Then the Bay Area Network of Gay and Lesbian Educators marches by, chanting "We are proud! We are gay! And we're in the PTA!"
The most raucous, raunchy, spliced-together scenes imaginable from two years' worth of San Francisco Gay Pride marches are featured in videos appearing in every state where anti-gay initiatives are on the ballot. Originally used two years ago by the Traditional Values Coalition to overturn a nondiscrimination ordinance in Concord, California, the video was re-edited in 1992 for OCA and CFV - with very little narration and extensive allusions to sadomasochism and child molestation for Oregon; Colorado's filled out with "expert" doctors and psychologists and "reformed" homosexuals.
OCA distributed its version to churches and households across the state, CFV aired excerpts on television as campaign ads, and activists have reported the same clips used to fight against gay rights in Kentucky and Florida.
"This is one day a year when people get together, probably the only day, when they can be out in the open as outlandish as they choose," says Suggs. "It's a Mardi Gras-type event, and has nothing to do with how people lead their everyday lives. It's like judging heterosexuals by the way a minority of them behave on St. Patrick's Day."
Yet so convincing are the images at reinforcing pre-existing prejudices that lesbians and gays have become increasingly tense about what is publicly versus privately appropriate behavior. "They're really shrewd at manipulating the facts to suit their agenda," says Bray. "But what's alarming is the willingness of the public to accept those |facts.' "
Surveys consistently indicate that most voters oppose anti-gay discrimination and support civil-rights protections for lesbians and gays. They don't believe people should be bashed or lose their jobs because they are lesbian or gay.
"But on the other hand, polls also show there is a deep visceral negative reaction to homosexuality itself. People are grossed out by it, because so much attention is focused on the sexual aspects, not on people," says Bray.
One way to fight the religious Right at the grass-roots level is for lesbians, gays, and bisexuals openly to acknowledge their sexual orientation. If every lesbian and gay person in Denver alone were out, says Ogden, Amendment 2 would have been defeated. "If every gay and lesbian person throughout the state of Colorado had reached out to one more person, we would have won by a landslide," he says. "We have to take responsibility for who we are and what we are. We cannot let the rest of the world decide that."
Activists hope the Far Right's attack on gays will backfire. Despite the religious Right's smear campaigns, voters in Portland, Maine, have rejected an anti-gay referendum almost identical to Colorado's, and courts have overturned similar initiatives in Concord, California, and Springfield, Oregon.
The outcome of the legal challenge to Colorado's Amendment 2 will have important implications for the rest of the nation. Even if the amendment is judged unconstitutional, the Far Right may appeal the decision, possibly taking it to the Supreme Court. "Everybody's watching what's happening here right now," says Ogden. Even the Christian Coalition, which kept a low profile in Colorado before the election, has now taken over Colorado for Family Values' organizing and litigation efforts.
And despite news reports of resentment by Coloradans, the national boycott of the state is gathering steam. At least thirty-five major cities, and other organizations, media, and celebrities have expressed support for the boycott and called off meetings and travel plans there, costing the state an estimated $25 million in lost convention, business, and tourist revenue so far. The U.S. Conference of Mayors recently canceled its annual meeting in Colorado Springs to protest Amendment 2, and The New York Times endorsed the boycott.
Colorado activists are taking other steps to counter the religious Right, says Ogden. "This thing could turn around tomorrow in the courts, but unfortunately that's not going to change attitudes," he says. "There's a lot of education to do."
Equality Colorado is leading comprehensive outreach and training programs for schools, businesses, and community groups, and has initiated a neighborhood sign project to raise awareness about equal protection for all people." Working in concert with the Denver Chamber of Commerce, the group has already convinced many businesses to adopt an antidiscrimination policy.
Meanwhile, Oregon activists are putting together an outline of how OCA ran its campaign and how they countered it, so activists in other states won't have to "start from scratch" when facing similar threats.
"We have an opportunity to learn lessons from Oregon and Colorado and coordinate effective campaigns against the Far Right immediately," says Oregon activist Scot Nakagawa.
The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force has launched its 1993 "Fight the Right" campaign, hiring additional staff to coordinate work in "hot spots" around the country. Affirming a variety of tactics including education, organizing, lobbying, direct action, and the boycott, the task force is planning regional summits to strategize with activists in communities facing anti-gay opposition.
Coaching lesbians and gays and their allies in teach-ins, seasoned activists have created an organizing kit, "Countering Right-Wing Rhetoric: Soundbite Responses to Anti-Gay Bigotry."
"For example," says Bray, "we say: We're not talking about |special' rights. The right to an income is not a special right. The right to rent an apartment without getting evicted because you're gay is not a special right. The right to walk down the street without getting bashed - these are not special rights, these are basic human rights. The Far Right wants to impose its fundamentalist priorities on America. They want the special right to discriminate against gay people."
Further, he says, progressive forces must take back the referendum process from the Far Right; concerned politicians should actively sponsor pro-gay legislation.
David Mixner, senior adviser to the Clinton campaign, says the backlash is as a sign for activists to mobilize to pass a Federal lesbian and gay civil-rights bill this year.
The Left often regards lesbian and gay liberation as less serious and more selfish than fighting apartheid or pollution, says gay activist Scott Tucker. Heterosexual progressives have got to stop "abandoning the field of battle."
In the meantime, lesbian and gay teenagers of all classes are driven to suicide in record numbers and account for a large percentage of yearly runaways, and hate crimes are on the rise. That makes it more important than ever to create a positive climate for gays, lesbians, and bisexuals to come out and to challenge homophobia and heterosexism in all its guises.
"Whites who march with African-Americans for civil rights remain distinct - and privileged," Tucker has written. "So do men who march with women against sexism. But straights who march with queers, lezzies, and sodomites must risk being mistaken for one of them."
Although the Colorado initiative is clearly a setback for lesbian and gay rights, some activists point out the long-term positive potential of triggering outrage.
"We're seeing the gay and nongay communities uniting like never before," says Equality Colorado's Ogden. "It's a wake-up call."
|God Said Kill Fags"
A frightening number of individuals are seeing the religious Right's anti-gay initiatives as a directive to take literally the slogan hurled by counter-demonstrators at lesbian and gay marchers in the Boston Saint Patrick's Day Parade and spray-painted on lesbian and gay activists' homes in Oregon - God said kill fags. Gay bashing has increased 300 per cent in Oregon since the statewide anti-gay measure was proposed there, including a firebombing and two deaths. In Colorado, the weeks after the election saw an 800 per cent rise in hate crimes over the previous November, when few in the state had heard of Amendment 2.
Colorado's homophobia related murders increased from two in 1991 to five in 1992. Other reported incidents include physical and sexual assaults, vandalism, and harassment, which the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force says represent "only the tip of the iceberg," since mosi hate-crime violence is not recorded. Activists charge that the explosive surge in anti-gay bias incidents is directly attributable to the religious Right's hate propaganda.
"The election has given a license to bash us," says Cat Morgan of the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Colorado. When the names of Colorado gay activists appeared in the media, they received anonymous phone calls in which the caller fired a shotgun at the other end. In Oregon, gays and lesbians have routinely received death threats and harassing phone calls. People wearing "No on 9" buttons have been spit on and beaten, and pulled from their cars and bashed. Hateful messages have been spray-painted on buildings and sidewalks.
Eggs have been thrown at people's homes, rocks with threatening notes attached have been thrown through windows, and pets have been brutally slaughtered. The editors of Just Out, a Portland lesbian and gay newspaper, discovered a note on their office door warning: "After 9 passes we will kill you all."
Most disturbing, however, are the arson attacks, break-ins, and actual murders of gays and lesbians. The pattern in Colorado has led some lesbians and gays there to fear a serial killer.
The religious Right says again and again they don't justify violence, but in every other way they suggest that we are people to be despised," says Donald Suggs of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. Many lesbians and gays are closeted for fear of discrimination and violence, especially outside of the "gay/urban enclaves" of liberal magnet cities. As lesbian and gay issues gain more attention, therefore, societal attitudes toward homosexuality are largely determined by media depictions of lesbians and gay men.
"All these absurd notions about recruiting that really play on people's fears and insecurities about their own sexuality reinforce the idea that we're people it's okay to hate, "explains Suggs. "Sexual orientation is not something that can be recruited or changed, people are who they are. The issue is whether they are able to be who they are without fear of violence or discrimination."
Most perpetrators of anti-gay hate crimes are white men in their teens or early twenties, often part of skinhead or neo-Nazi gangs. Last fall, a white-supremacist church based in Colorado distributed a booklet titled Death Penalty for Homosexuals Is Prescribed in the Bible, arguing that Christians who don't want to kill lesbians and gays are part of the problem.
"The truth of the matter is, in one respect, homosexuals are far more virtuous than the lukewarm, warm, cowardly, goody-goody, praise-the-Lord Judeo-Christians," writes Church of Christ Pastor Peter J. Peters, who has strong ties to the Christian Identity movement and the Order, two particularly violent neo-Nazi groups.
While Peters refers often in his booklet to "Judeo-Christian" values, the Jewish Anti-Defamation League has also been the target of a similar pamphlet by Peters.
A promotion letter for the booklet, published by Scriptures for America, encourages readers to "use it as you will for the King. When the truth contained in this booklet is embraced by society, and it will be, there's going to be a big rock party held on behalf of the perverts and their allies."
But activists aren't letting the intimidation stop them. Street patrols are springing up around the country to confront gay bashers in action. Some, like New York's Panther Patrol and Seattle's Q Patrol, are "interventionist," and members are trained to intervene physically in attacks. Others, like Sacramento's Lavender Angels, are "watchdog" groups that call the police to respond to bashings.
And in Oregon, lesbians and gays took special precautions during the campaign. Activist Donna Red Wing kept a loaded shotgun handy, and she told reporters she knows how to use it." Oregon's "No on 9" erected a barbed-wire and chain-link fence around its office and hired bodyguards. The Portland police chief, who has marched in gay-pride parades in uniform and has a lesbian daughter on the squad, worked hard to prevent violence, says,activist Ariel Waterwoman. Holding community meetings and workshops on safety, the police department gave activists beepers to wear and installed panic buttons in their offices.
"The police protection was a major reason people didn't get killed here," says Waterwoman. "They made a huge effort to keep people alive."
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|Title Annotation:||religious conservative anti-gay ballot initiatives|
|Article Type:||Cover Story|
|Date:||Mar 1, 1993|
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