June 16, 2003
June is Gay Pride Month. It's a time of celebration for people like me who are gay or lesbian. But that's not the case this year, in view of the Bush administration's stance toward gay people.
Unlike former President Bill Clinton, President Bush has not issued a proclamation recognizing Gay Pride Month, although he has done so for other occasions, like National African-American History Month and Leif Erikson Day.
Presidents promulgate hundreds of proclamations every year. While such statements can seem trivial, their value shouldn't be discounted.
When I was a teen-ager in the 1960s, I was afraid to come out. I knew no adults who were open about their homosexual orientation. Today, openly gay people are parents, educators and entertainers. Bush's refusal to issue a Gay Pride Month proclamation demeans the acceptance and visibility we have gained in America.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Justice said that DOJ Pride -- a group of several hundred of its gay and lesbian employees -- could not hold its annual Pride event in its building. After much criticism, the department relented, reversing its decision -- in part. It said the group could hold its event but that the department would not sponsor the gathering.
In previous years, the Department of Justice has sponsored DOJ Pride events, said Allison Nichol, vice president of the group. Last year, Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson spoke at the Pride event.
Attorney General John Ashcroft's duty is to enforce the nation's civil-rights laws, even if they differ from his socially conservative views, which are negative toward homosexuality. By denying equal treatment, he and the administration are sending the message that it's OK to discriminate.
Unfortunately, the DOJ Pride policy is just one example of the Bush administration's hostile attitude toward people like me.
Take, for instance, Alabama Attorney General William H. Pryor, Bush's nominee for a seat on the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. Pryor changed his vacation plans to avoid Gay Days at Disney World. "It was a value judgment," he told the Senate Judiciary Committee. Pryor said that he wanted to keep his children away from gay people.
Knowing that a nominee for a federal judgeship wants to "protect" his children from gay people makes me sad. But more upsetting is Pryor's support of laws prohibiting consensual sex between gay people. In an amicus brief in a case now before the U.S. Supreme Court, Pryor said that if the "sodomy laws" in Texas are overthrown, it would pave the way for the legalization of necrophilia, incest and pedophilia.
The Log Cabin Republicans, a group of gay Republicans, opposes Pryor's nomination. It's the first time the group has opposed anyone nominated by Bush, said Mark Mead, the group's director of public affairs. Pryor's amicus brief "was a gratuitous slap at gay and lesbian Americans," Mead said.
Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., is another example. When he made derogatory remarks about gay people in April, far from deploring his remarks, Bush, through his spokesperson Ari Fleisher, praised Santorum for his convictions and inclusiveness.
The message from Bush seems clear: He not only condones top political leaders who attack gay people, he applauds them.
Kathi Wolfe is a free-lance writer living in Falls Church, Va.