Joan Biskupic's Nov. 5 front-page article, "For Gays, Tolerance Translates to Rights," detailed some successes lesbians and gay men have achieved in the courts. When we look beyond a handful of cases, however, the news is much less positive.

On Capitol Hill, Congress dropped provisions that would have added lesbians and gay men to the federal hate-crimes statute. Similarly, Congress refused to act on the federal Employment Nondiscrimination Act, even though 87 percent of Americans believe that lesbians and gay men should have equal opportunities in employment.

Across the country, lesbians and gay men still are denied custody of their biological children. In Alabama, for example, the state Supreme Court refused to grant custody of two children to their mother because she is a lesbian and instead sent them to live with their father, who had a record for violence and drunk driving.

Even in areas where there have been moves forward, the news is mixed. For example, California recently enacted a law to protect lesbian and gay students from harassment, but state Sen. Pete Knight also launched a ballot initiative that would prohibit the state from recognizing same-gender marriages, even though same-gender marriages are already illegal in California. While Mr. Knight claims the initiative is not anti-gay, it is important to note that incidents of violence increased in Oregon, Maine and Colorado when those states put lesbian and gay civil rights to a vote.

While it is always important to report advances in civil rights, it is equally important to recognize that powerful forces continue to work to undermine those advances.

CAROLE SHIELDS

President

People for the American Way

Washington