Politicians' intolerance help fuel climate of hate against gays and lesbians

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

THE NEWS out of New York City this past weekend was horrifying. In what is being called the worst anti-gay violence in recent memory, two 17-year-old boys and a 30-year-old man were kidnapped and sexually tortured in the Bronx because they are gay. The nine thugs allegedly responsible for this atrocity are in custody.

According to Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly, the alleged perpetrators have not expressed remorse. They deserve to be punished to the fullest extent of the law. Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he "was sickened by the brutal nature of these crimes and saddened by the anti-gay bias that contributed to them." Mr. Bloomberg was joined in his unequivocal outrage and condemnation by Gov. David Paterson, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Archbishop Timothy Dolan of the New York Archdiocese.

And then there's Carl Paladino. In a stunning display of tone-deafness and bigotry, the Republican candidate for governor said this about homosexuality during a speech on Sunday: "That's not how God created us. . . . I just think my children and your children would be much better off and much more successful getting married and raising a family, and I don't want them brainwashed into thinking that homosexuality is an equally valid and successful option -- it isn't."

The last two weeks have been ugly for gay men and lesbians -- and for America. In addition to the violence in the Bronx, there have been attacks on homosexuals in other parts of New York City and suicides of gay teenagers across the country who were literally bullied to death.

Where do bullies get their ammunition, the hurtful slurs that eat away at the self-esteem of those who are gay or lesbian? What makes someone feel it's okay to verbally and physically harass, maim or even kill?

One source is politicians such as Mr. Paladino who continue to espouse their belief that being gay is an immoral or unnatural "lifestyle" choice that can be changed at will. As long as such dehumanizing ignorance and intolerance go unchallenged, the horrors and suicides will continue.

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