Civil Liberties

Foul Ballpark

Gays vs. sports welfare


NowTHIS is a culture war: baseball vs. drag queens. One of the few groups concerned about a world-class fiscal error coming down the pike in Washington, D.C., is the city's gay community.

The utterly baseball-obsessed city fathers have opted to offer Major League Baseball a staggering $440 million subsidy in the form of a new stadium for the vagabond Montreal Expos. The deal far outstrips any other offer on the table for the team and essentially gives the franchise a stadium for free with no strings attached. If the franchise wants to move again in a couple of years, it will incur no penalty–a powerful incentive for the city to continue to do absolutely anything to keep the baseball team happy. A worse deal is difficult to imagine.

D.C.'s gays certainly feel that way. To make room for the stadium, the city plans to blow up several blocks in a one-time warehouse district along the Anacostia River. That just happens to be the location of several gay nightclubs, strip clubs, and porno theaters, a grouping that dates back to the 1970s.

The gay community suspects this is not a coincidence, even though Mayor Anthony Williams says the city will work with "displaced" businesses to find new homes. Gay leaders wonder where else in the city the decidedly adult fare will be welcomed, as current zoning regulations prohibit such businesses from clustering together.