A little sensitivity when dealing with same-sex issues

Gays and lesbians endure enough abuse without being told their relationships are simliar to being attracted to the leg of a chair.

You’ve heard the testimonial of a man who once thought he was gay, but discovered God and realized the joy of heterosexuality (“Homosexuality in the light of truth: life’s issues in practice,” opinion, Monday). I remember the same story from Michael David Wallen last year and I responded in a letter.

I made a snide and flippant comment about replacing religion with pornography and tried to discredit the author. I wish not to do that this time. I would much rather open up minds by sharing the stories that are the lives of millions of gay men and women in this great and free nation.

Gays and lesbians can be fired solely on the basis of their sexual orientation in 36 states. Many employers who offer benefits to their employees extend these benefits to their employees’ spouses, but those benefits are rarely extended to domestic partners. Many families are subsequently left without affordable health care.

Hate crimes against gays and lesbians are at higher rates than they’ve ever been. Almost 17 percent of hate crimes are due to bias against the victim’s sexual orientation – making it the third-highest category of hate crimes.

Gay men and women are prohibited from serving in the military openly due to the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

Until the Supreme Court recently overturned a 1986 case upholding a Georgia sodomy law, sodomy was illegal in Alabama, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and Virginia.

How many people have professed that what homosexuals do in their bedrooms is their business? Sadly, this was not true until very recently.

Same-sex couples live in 99 percent of counties nationwide and there has been a rise in gay and lesbian parenting since the early ’90s. And yet, same-sex couples are denied more than 1,000 federal benefits given to opposite-sex couples. Without the benefit of marriage, gay couples cannot transfer money from one retirement fund to another after a death without incurring significant penalties and fees.

Partners raising children are denied Social Security surviving parent benefits because they cannot marry; children may be denied Social Security surviving child benefits if the deceased parent was barred from securing a legal relationship to his or her child through second-parent adoption.

There are no protections for same-sex partners in the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, which allows heterosexual couples to take leave from work to care for their ailing partners.

There are dozens of examples of the often blatant discrimination felt by millions of gays and lesbians in this country. The United States, of all places, should be a leader in granting and extending rights to gays and lesbians.

Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Norway, Portugal and Sweden all have laws granting same-sex couples many of the same rights given to heterosexual couples. The Netherlands and Belgium both allow gays and lesbians to marry.

In the summer of 2003, Ontario and British Columbia became the first places same-sex U.S. couples could marry, with Massachusetts following soon thereafter, while Vermont allows for civil unions. Clearly none of these places have spun into chaos.

Gays and lesbians are discriminated against enough by the government without having to be told that being attracted to someone of the same gender is like being attracted to the leg of a chair.

I am the product of a lesbian and I take great offense to being told my mom is abnormal for sharing the same preferences as millions of other women. It is embarrassing to live in a world where intolerance is common and ignorance abounds.

Zac Handlson is a University student. Please send comments to [email protected]