Bush scorns Gay Pride Month

Bush scorns Gay Pride Month
By Susan Raffo
June 11, 2001

June is Gay Pride Month, and as a lesbian American, I'm not in much of a mood to celebrate.

President Bush has been silent on gay-related issues. And he has made his disdain for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans even more apparent by having his spokesman announce on the first day of June that the White House would not formally recognize Gay Pride Month.

This is a slap in the face. Gay Pride Month commemorates the Stonewall Rebellion in New York City that ignited the modern gay-rights movement on June 27, 1969.

Both gay and straight celebrate Pride month with speakers, festivals and parades. In Minneapolis, where I live, our annual Pride celebration attracts more than 20,000 people of all backgrounds.

Bush's refusal to recognize Pride month is merely the latest in an appalling record on gay and lesbian civil rights. As governor of Texas, he supported a Texas law allowing the state to take adopted children away from gay and lesbian couples and place the kids with heterosexual couples. He also opposed modifying the state's law on hate crimes to include sexual orientation.

As president, Bush has not done much to improve relations. He did appoint Scott Evertz, who is openly gay, to head the White House Office of National AIDS Policy. But even though it was the first time an openly gay man or lesbian has been chosen for an appointment by any Republican administration, this doesn't amount to much. President Clinton, by contrast, named more than 150 openly gay and lesbian officials during his eight years in office.

What's more, Evertz's experience as a conservative gay activist and an administrator for a church-based office on aging is not what the job of the chief of AIDS policy needs. AIDS is not primarily a gay issue. While many gays and lesbians have been infected with HIV and AIDS, the virus has increasingly hit the country's poor. The number of infections is highest for poor African-American women and men, both straight and gay. One in every 50 black American men is infected with the virus, according to a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And 1 in every 160 black women is infected. Compare that to 1 in every 250 white men, and 1 in 3,000 white women who are infected.

A key issue for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community is the right to hold a job without fear of being fired for who we are.

Before leaving office, Clinton handed down three executive orders addressing homosexuality as an employment issue. These orders address hiring and firing issues, among other things.

Now it's up to Bush to enforce these orders. Unfortunately, he hired Kay Cole James to review these orders. James formerly worked with the Family Research Council, a conservative watchdog group with a history of working against gay rights.

The job of the president of the United States is to protect the rights of all citizens, even those he might not feel comfortable with. So far Bush has not scored well on his protection of gay and lesbian Americans.

Since 1969, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in this country has had a lot to feel proud about. We have taken many steps forward in our pursuit of equal rights.

We will not be silent as Bush tries to push us back.

Susan Raffo is a free-lance writer based in Minneapolis. She can be reached at pmproj@progressive.org.