Frank Rich on ‘gay bashing’ in DC

Posted on 12 Dec 2010 at 10:44am

Frank Rich looks at the gay bashing underway in DC. He addresses the controversy at the National Portrait Gallery over the removal of David Wojnarowicz’s work “A Fire in My Belly.” It was back to the 80s for the Smithsonian. But, Rich brilliantly explains how this is part of a bigger pattern of homophobia that’s alive and well in the nation’s Capitol:

It still seems an unwritten rule in establishment Washington that homophobia is at most a misdemeanor. By this code, the Smithsonian’s surrender is no big deal; let the art world do its little protests. This attitude explains why the ever more absurd excuses concocted by John McCain for almost single-handedly thwarting the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” are rarely called out for what they are — “bigotry disguised as prudence,” in the apt phrase of Slate’s military affairs columnist, Fred Kaplan. Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council has been granted serious and sometimes unchallenged credence as a moral arbiter not just by Rupert Murdoch’s outlets but by CNN, MSNBC and The Post’s “On Faith” Web site even as he cites junk science to declare that “homosexuality poses a risk to children” and that being gay leads to being a child molester.

It’s partly to counteract the hate speech of persistent bullies like Donohue and Perkins that the Seattle-based author and activist Dan Savage created his “It Gets Better” campaign in which gay adults (and some non-gay leaders, including President Obama) make videos urging at-risk teens to realize that they are not alone. But even this humanitarian effort is controversial and suspect in some Beltway quarters: G.O.P. politicians and conservative pundits have yet to participate even though most of the recent and well-publicized suicides by gay teens have occurred in Republican Congressional districts, including those of party leaders like Michele Bachmann, Mike Pence and Kevin McCarthy.

Has it gotten better since AIDS decimated a generation of gay men? In San Francisco, certainly. But when America’s signature cultural institution can be so easily bullied by bigots, it’s another indicator that the angels Keith Haring saw on his death bed have not landed in Washington just yet.

Not yet. For GOPers, it’s blatant homophobia (or for the Lindsey Graham types, it’s internalized homophobia.) I also think for many Democrats (including top White House staffers like Emanuel and Messina), it’s political homophobia.




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