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Last week, the Minneapolis City Pages ran a story by Paul Demko regarding the controversy surrounding Judith Levine’s new book "Harmful to Minors" published by the University Press. Levine’s main thesis is that sex "is not ipso facto harmful to minors, and America’s drive to protect kids from sex is protecting them from nothing." One […]

Gays and Sept. 11

by John Troyer

Last week, the Minneapolis City Pages ran a story by Paul Demko regarding the controversy surrounding Judith Levine’s new book "Harmful to Minors" published by the University Press. Levine’s main thesis is that sex "is not ipso facto harmful to minors, and America’s drive to protect kids from sex is protecting them from nothing."

One of the protest methods used by avid critics of both Levine and the University Press is an Internet-based campaign, sending letters to Gov. Jesse Ventura’s office asking him to intervene and stop publication of the book. The petition is available at http://www.conservativepetitions.com (I owe Paul Demko thanks for listing the Web site in his story).

In all truth, Conservativepetitions.com is my new favorite Web site to talk about with friends over tea. While skimming through this Web site pluck-full of various intellectually astute arguments on just about any topic, I came across a related topic I chose to pursue instead of the brouhaha surrounding "Harmful to Minors." Specifically, I came across a gem of a petition.

Near the letter to Ventura is a petition denouncing "homosexual activists exploiting our national grief over terrorists’ attack on World Trade Center." I really couldn’t have made a sentence like that up, so I encourage all interested individuals to look at the petition.

The campaign to stop homosexual activists is being waged by Rev. Louis P. Sheldon, chairman (please stress the "man" in the title) of the Traditional Values Coalition. Sheldon’s involvement comes as no surprise, and his previous work with the Web site http://www.godhatesfags.com sums up, for me, the Traditional Values Coalition’s position on life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

The problem is I am a die-hard counter-American, civil libertarian and I firmly believe the Traditional Values Coalition has just as much right as any other group to make asinine statements. I will also now tell all members and adherents of the Traditional Values Coalition why they are completely wrong about the menace of homosexual activists exploiting anybody’s grief anywhere.

Here is the first line of the above petition: "While Americans are in mourning, volunteering their time, donating blood, and praying for the victims of the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks, homosexual activists in Washington, D.C. are aggressively pushing homosexual special rights legislation that has been stalled in Congress."

The "special rights" being mentioned involve health care coverage, hospital visitation guarantees in the event of a partner’s illness and a few other menacing requests like legal safety from job/housing/insurance discrimination. It’s the typical laundry list of really subversive cultural requests by the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender activist movement, the members of which incidentally pay federal and state income tax supporting governmental institutions from which no guarantees of due process under the law are apparently ever guaranteed.

I really do not know how special any of these rights are (unless of course they can be denied without cause). These rather banal, reasonable requests really demonstrate how unreasonable the Traditional Values Coalition becomes regarding any topic about the ever-lurking homosexual activist. Unless, of course, the story is about some empirically proven conversion program that guarantees de-queering an individual, and so the said man/woman would not burn in hell. Indeed, I still prefer brimstone to false consciousness.

And now the last line of the petition: "We must not allow homosexuals to exploit our national grief for their selfish political objectives."

Besides the obvious question of just who is exploiting what with this petition, I want to take a moment and talk about the contributions made by GLBT people on Sept. 11 conveniently overlooked by the Traditional Values Coalition. It was bad enough Jerry Falwell, while chatting with Pat Robertson, made the following statement a few days after Sept. 11 on the "700 Club" television program.

Jerry Falwell: "What we saw on Tuesday, as terrible as it is, could be miniscule if, in fact, God continues to lift the curtain and allow the enemies of America to give us probably what we deserve."

Pat Robertson: "Jerry, that’s my feeling. I think we’ve just seen the antechamber to terror. We haven’t even begun to see what they can do to the major population."

Jerry Falwell: "The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked. And when we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad. I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America, I point the finger in their face and say, ‘You helped this happen.’"

Now I know Jerry Falwell repeatedly explained to everyone that his comments were taken out of context (from what or how I remain unsure) but then again, <www.godhatesfags.com> could just as easily be misconstrued as a gourmet cooking Web site.

What really angers me about the whole situation is how some of the conveniently forgotten people considered to be heroes, called heroic by President George W. Bush himself, were gay and lesbian members of society.

Case in point is Mark Bingham, a 31-year-old advertising executive from San Francisco. Bingham’s name and identity have been lost in the "let’s roll" rhetoric championed by Bush’s speechwriters starting in late September.

Bingham was a fellow passenger with Todd Beamer on Flight 93 that crashed in Pennsylvania. A telephone dispatcher reported hearing Beamer say "let’s roll" to a group of other men preparing to enter the cockpit.

Mark Bingham, Todd Beamer, Tom Burnett and Jeremy Glick are the four men Bush administration officials believe stormed the cockpit of Flight 93, preventing the hijacked plane from hitting a target in Washington, D.C., (perhaps the Capitol building itself), thereby potentially saving many more lives in the process.

Mark Bingham, called a national hero by almost everyone, was openly gay and, more to the point, a Republican.

Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona spoke at Bingham’s memorial service, thanking him for potentially saving his own life by forcing the plane to crash in Pennsylvania. In October, the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association began a letter campaign to talk about not only Mark Bingham, but also Father Mychal Judge, chaplain for the New York Fire Department who died while administering the last rites during the collapse of the World Trade Center Towers.

Judge was openly gay and worked extensively in the GLBT communities of New York. The list could go on for quite a long time, and I will assert that among the 300-plus firefighters and rescue workers killed in New York on Sept. 11, at least a few must have been gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender individuals.

So to the petitioners of the Traditional Values Coalition, I strongly suggest dropping the case against homosexual activists. Mostly because it’s a tired argument, and Americans will always support their gay and lesbian neighbors.

However, I am hopeful the Traditional Values Coalition continues the persistent campaigns against wily homosexual activists because then I am guaranteed consistent opportunities to write about the everyday accomplishments of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans and the menace of blind faith.

John Troyer is a columnist for the Daily Minnesotan, the University of Minnesota’s student newspaper. He can be reached at: troy0005@tc.umn.edu.