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Dear Abby April 1970: advice columnist Dear Abby speaks out in favor of gay relationships when homosexuality was still considered mental illness. (Justifying our love).

"Everybody knows they can come to Dear Abby for an honest answer," says Jeanne Phillips, current scribe of the internationally syndicated column. This uncompromising approach was established by Phillips's mother, Pauline Phillips, who was Dear Abby for 31 years. The elder Phillips gave the public something to chew on along with breakfast when in 1970 she responded to a distraught letter writer by asserting that homosexuality is not a disease; rather, "It is the inability to love at all which I consider an emotional illness."

"Of course [the public] wrote and told her they disagreed--or worse," remembers Phillips. "She even got pages ripped from a Bible. Imagine desecrating the holy book!" While her mother's opinion was offered "from the heart," it was also informed by her association with Franz Alexander, "the father of psychosomatic medicine," and Judd Marmor, who was instrumental in having homosexuality removed from the American Psychiatric Association's list of mental illnesses three years later.

Dear Abby's respect for gay readers has never wavered. "It has not evolved or changed at all over the years. It's squarely where it belongs," Phillips states emphatically. "Gay readers have the same problems as everybody else. They are treated the same way. These are human relations questions. People are people." Appreciative readers have responded, and Dear Abby often receives mail "from gay people for whom a letter has made a difference--lovely, lovely letters."

When a letter writer's problem is beyond the scope of a daily column, Phillips will frequently intervene personally to steer people toward organizations that deal with specific issues. "After all," she admits, "I'm not the last word on all things gay." Phillips's blanket advice on the matter? "People should be allowed to be who they are. We'd live in a much happier world."
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Author:Jones, Wenzel
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Date:Nov 12, 2002
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