On the wrong side of history

It’s amazing that in 2010, we need tragedies to open a national dialogue about GLBT issues.

by Ian J Byrne

America will not be a civil society until there is equality for all. Our country has made significant gains over the past centuries by abolishing slavery, giving women the right to vote and outlawing racial segregation. Now, in 2010, it is imperative for the evolution of our society and country that equal rights are granted to our GLBT friends, neighbors, professors, colleagues and community.

New York Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino recently gave a speech in Brooklyn. He criticized his opponent, Democrat Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, for marching in a gay pride parade this year and Paladino said that “it is not the example we should be showing our children.”

“I just think my children and your children would be much better off and much more successful getting married and raising a family,” Paladino said. “And I donâÄôt want them brainwashed into thinking that homosexuality is an equally valid and successful option âÄî it isnâÄôt,”

He faced well-deserved criticism for his homophobic comments. Paladino spent the following Monday defending his remarks and saying that he has a gay nephew and his administration would hire gays. On ABCâÄôs “Good Morning America,” he stated that he has one and only one problem with homosexuality: “their desire to be married.”

After a full day of defending his words, Paladino released a written statement and said that he had made a mistake and apologized “for any comment that may have offended the gay and lesbian community or their family members.”

Paladino is not an obscure figure on the fringe. He is the Republican-endorsed gubernatorial candidate for the state of New York. It is absurd that anyone nonchalantly spouts off hateful rhetoric with the backing of any political party. Perhaps we need to ensure that no one is brainwashed into thinking that bigotry is an equally valid option.

A few days before PaladinoâÄôs speech, on Thursday, Oct. 7, New York City police arrested seven people in the Bronx suspected of kidnapping and torturing three men because they were gay. As of Sunday, 10 suspects in all have been arrested. The suspectsâÄô ages range from 16 to 23.

The crimes took place in three separate incidents at an empty apartment in the Bronx. Two 17-year-olds were targeted because they had been seen with a 30-year-old man known to be gay. They were brought to the empty apartment, where they were tied to a chair and beaten. Both men admitted to having had sex with the older man.

The 30-year-old was then lured to the apartment with the promise of a party. Upon arriving, he was attacked, tied to a chair, beaten, burned, whipped with a chain and sodomized with a plastic baseball bat.

These crimes are appalling. I do not think anyone, whether they support or oppose gay rights legislation, would condone the suspectsâÄô actions. However, the notion that homosexuality is not acceptable breeds contempt and violence. This idea is toxic.

I went to the Minnesota gubernatorial debate held at the University of Minnesota last Friday. The three candidates were asked if they would sign legislation legalizing gay marriage. Democrat Mark Dayton and Independent Tom Horner both said they would.

Republican candidate Tom Emmer responded to the question by saying that, while it was an important issue to many people, he had “a clear history” of where he stood on the issue of marriage. “This election, this campaign has to be focused on getting Minnesota moving again,” he said, adding that job creation should be the main focus of the next governor.

It goes without saying that reviving MinnesotaâÄôs economy will be the next governorâÄôs top priority. However, the question asked was not about the economy. Emmer dodged the question and disguised his apathy toward GLBT issues with enthusiasm for reviving the Minnesota economy and put across the idea that there are more worthwhile issues. He ignored the plight of thousands of Minnesotans who want to be treated equally.

Denying the GLBT community the right to marry communicates that they are not worthy of the same rights that heterosexuals enjoy. Who is to say that affording heterosexuals the right to marry but not homosexuals is any different than having different drinking fountains for the two groups?

It is a shame that it takes the suicide of a promising student in New Jersey, the beating and torture of three men in New York and PaladinoâÄôs corrosive remarks to jumpstart the national conversation on GLBT issues, whether they be anti-bullying legislation or marriage equality. It is 2010. The due date for the GLBT community to be granted equal rights under the law is long past.

Heterosexuality and homosexuality are both equally valid options and should be recognized as so by the law. Any politician or voter, Democrat, Republican, or Independent, who opposes equality for our GLBT citizens, for whatever reason, is setting himself up to be on the wrong
side of history.


Ian J. Byrne welcomes comments at
[email protected].