Selected Skirmishes: Queer Tactics


News Item: Liza Minnelli has canceled a benefit performance to raise money for the fight against Colorado's Amendment Two, which repealed gay-rights measures statewide—because the concert was to be held in Colorado, which she's boycotting.

News Item: The cities of Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Boston have endorsed the Colorado boycott, which includes a ban on travel by municipal officials to the cities of Denver, Aspen, and Boulder—the cities whose pro-gay ordinances provoked Amendment Two, which struck them down.

News Item: A 300-member group, Lesbian Avengers, has tailed and harassed Denver Mayor Wellington Webb on his interstate travels. Toting placards and chanting, "We're here, we're queer, and we won't go skiing," the group hounded Mayor Webb, an outspoken opponent of Amendment Two, as he appeared on shows such as Arsenio Hall.

Ironic Logic: If I am a homophobic Coloradan, what could be better? All I do is vote for Amendment Two, and not only do gay-rights laws disappear, so do the gays! Now Colorado can advertise the Straightest Bunny Slopes in North America and pack those ski lodges to the rafters with He-Men not a little nervous about sharing a lift seat with a more-sensitive type. And those patsies who got these gay laws passed in the first place? They're pelted with insults the first steps they take out of state! For the Colorado queer-hater, this is a public-policy fairy tale come true.

Amendment Two prohibits any state or local government from allowing "homosexual, lesbian, or bisexual orientation… [to] entitle any person…[to] claim minority status, quota preferences, protected status or claim of discrimination." This is a far cry from the blatantly discriminatory law wisely voted down by the Oregon electorate. Whereas the latter would have denied certain sexual persuasions the status of equal protection, Amendment Two seems to assure it.

Or does it? The concept of equal protection has become so muddled during the era of affirmative discrimination that the effect of such a law is difficult to discern. If the Colorado measure means that competent homosexuals will be "outed" from city jobs by Baptist preachers with flocks to excite, then it's wrong. But if it succeeds in limiting a gay professor's rights regarding, say, wrongful termination to those which I enjoy, then I favor it. Amendment Two looks pretty evenhanded to me, and I think it aims at the latter more than the former. Can we, gay to straight, discuss this?

Apparently not. There is an attitude here which seems to undercut the search for common ground. Let's stipulate, at the outset, that gays and lesbians face significant barriers in our society and that much violence has been wreaked upon this minority over time. And even today. I root for justice to prevail. Yet the bizarre homophobic heaven created by the gay/lesbian boycott of Colorado is but one perversity in the campaign to even the score. Today, it appears as if equal protection is the enemy, while inequality is promiscuously flaunted by much of the gay community.

For instance, when I recently hosted a small soiree at my home, a liberal-minded female guest became enraged at the behavior of two gay party-goers. In bidding adieu to the woman's handsome boyfriend, one had taken the liberty of licking his hand. She saw this act as the grossest form of sexual hypocrisy: If she had found a femme fatale performing similar gratuities—which she has not, ever—the trespass would have been denounced by everyone, including the gay pranksters, as vile. Instead, the young homosexual men were gleefully unrepentant, even after receiving a tongue lashing of their own.

A dangerous double standard now swirls about us, and it is far more dangerous for gay than straight. The march of the fundamentalists is fueled by the hostility most Americans feel not for homosexuality but for in your face homosexuality.

Aside from some criminally deranged, small-boned redneck types who knock heads at gay bars for "sport," most heterosexuals are perfectly willing to let the Castro or West Hollywood or The Village swing to its own drummer. And from all signs, such gay neighborhoods do a good deal of formal or informal discriminating of their own, maintaining a distinctive ambiance. (And affluence: Alert real-estate speculators are quick to go long on a neighborhood going gay.)

Why not let a thousand flowers bloom? The natural cohabitation of sexually diverse gardens could be enriched by mowing down the cruel discriminations that still remain planted in the law: Oral sex (between anyway-oriented partners) is still illegal in Georgia (how twisted for Atlanta to boycott Denver), while same-sex marriage remains an "I can't" in California. To push for special status before equal status has been won is to play with fire.

The politically correct dilettantes who visit the Mormon slopes of Park City may be warmed by their brave act of ski-resort defiance. So long as the moguls are well-groomed and there is pretty good powder, the retro effects of this conspicuous sexual-orientation consumption will not likely impinge upon any downhill righteousness. What a perfect post-Soviet world, where a travel agent can so easily replace the parish priest. One can effortlessly massage one's conscience—while bestowing shorter lift lines on the homophobes in Aspen.

Contributing Editor Thomas W. Hazlett teaches economics and public policy at the University of California, Davis.