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Wayne Bessen

Civil wrongs
In a recent issue the Washington Post ran a “special advertising supplement” targeted to the black community that said gay people are unworthy of the equal rights that African-Americans now enjoy. The supplement was in the guise of a publication called “Both Sides Magazine,” although it wasn’t a true magazine and didn’t present both sides.

This disgraceful propaganda — clearly backed by Focus on the Family’s James Dobson — truly broke my heart. “Both Sides” tried to incite anger and contempt by using an inexcusably vicious combination of shocking pictures and bogus claims. Editor Dr. David Grier manipulated the facts and stuffed this trash bag with bogus social science designed to distort the lives of gay people.

Grier argued that gay people don’t deserve equal rights because their “lifestyle” causes them an early death. He arrived at this conclusion by using phony stats that compare the “median age of death for a homosexual man with AIDS” to the “average age of death for a married heterosexual male.”

This is as ridiculous as comparing the average age of death for healthy gay men to the age of death for African-Americans with severe diabetes. Contrasting life spans of healthy people from one group to sick people from another is beyond absurd.

Even more shameful, Grier got his information from Dr. Paul Cameron. In 1985, the American Sociological Association adopted a resolution that stated: “Dr. Paul Cameron has consistently misinterpreted sociological research on sexuality, homosexuality and lesbianism.”

Grier did not present science, but pap from the pulpit. It takes a total lack of integrity to smear a group with false “Bell Curve” style statistics. It is not befitting a man of God, but one who scrapes the gutter to find a way to justify prejudice.

Grier also uses the asinine argument that gay people are unworthy of equality because they didn’t suffer as much as African-Americans.

“Where were the water hoses, attack dogs and midnight rides to terrorize the marriage registrants in Massachusetts and San Francisco?” Grier blithely asks.

This revolting message marginalizes gay hate crime victims and their families. It minimizes gay and lesbian Americans who have been fired because of their sexual orientation. It dismisses the pain and suffering of countless gay youth who have committed suicide because of people like Grier.

Most perverse, Grier puts victims of discrimination into a twisted contest to see who has suffered more. How would Grier like it if a Jewish person dismissed the horrible suffering of African-Americans, like himself, by thoughtlessly spitting out, “Jim Crowe is nothing, we had the holocaust, so shut up and get to the back of the bus.”

In another article in the insert, James Canady Sr. makes a circular argument that gay people have equal rights because they can already marry the opposite sex. Well, sure, we can choose to have sex with a person we aren’t attracted to and marry someone we don’t love. But creating such unhealthy sham marriages is certainly not conducive to an enduring family. Perhaps Canady should have a discussion with the family of former New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey before he dispenses such pearls of wisdom.

The final argument is that gay people should not gain equal rights because homosexuality is not immutable, like race. Grier made the silly argument that, “If homosexuality is a genetic trait and homosexuals were true to their orientation, the trait would die in the first generation.” Has the ignoramus ever taken Biology 101?

The vast majority of gay and straight people would agree that their sexual orientation is deeply ingrained and is not changeable. The American Psychiatric Association says attempts to change sexual orientation can lead to “anxiety, depression, and self-destructive behavior.”

Nothing is more vulgar than minorities who bash other minorities. People like Grier and Canady display a remarkable degree of self-absorption. They are basically saying, “Now that I’ve got my rights, no one else deserves theirs.” It is discouraging to see people who learned all the wrong lessons of the civil rights movement.

Thankfully, most black leaders such as Al Sharpton, Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) Nelson Mandela and Coretta Scott King have been leading voices for gay and lesbian equality.

“For many years now, I have been an outspoken supporter of civil and human rights for gay and lesbian people,” Coretta Scott King said at the 25th anniversary luncheon for Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund. “Many of these courageous men and women were fighting for my freedom at a time when they could find few voices for their own, and I salute their contributions.”

The beauty of the civil rights movement is that it had a universal message that laid down a simple moral principle: Caste systems where people are born into second-class citizenship should be abolished. It is a shame that in this day and age some people only believe themselves worthy of dignity, freedom, equality and respect.


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