Monday, April 5, 2010

April Fools?

There've been several stories in North Carolina news recently in need of a punchline. They may seem funny, but sadly the homophobia around them is no joke.

Did you hear the one about ...

Jesse Helms, Gay Activist and Civil Rights Champion?

The Jesse Helms Center, curator of "Senator No"'s legacy, are trying to touch up our most infamous antigay senator's legacy.

In the wake of the end to the HIV travel band, the center, located in Wingate, is challenging the idea that Helms was a homophobe or obstructive in the AIDS fight.

“It was Senator Helms who worked most tirelessly to protect the very principles of freedom that homosexuals are denied in many other nations.”

John Dodd, president of the Jesse Helms Center Foundation, disputed an editorial in the British newspaper The Guardian that vilified Mr. Helms for his role in the HIV travel ban. Mr. Dodd said that “two million Africans were alive” because of the senator’s work fighting HIV/AIDS.

For a bit of historical context, let's consider some of Senator Helms' own words:

  • "There is not one single case of AIDS in this country that cannot be traced in origin to sodomy." - States News Service, May 1988
  • "Homosexuals are weak, morally sick wretches." - 1995 radio broadcast
  • "I despise the use of the once beautiful word 'gay.' They are not gay; they are repulsive." - Senate floor, February 20, 1992
  • "I may be the most radical person you've talked to about AIDS ... somewhere along the line we're going to have to quarantine it if we are really going to contain this disease. We did it back with syphilis. We did it with other diseases and nobody even raised a question about it." - Raleigh News & Observer, June 15, 1987
His history of homophobia is pretty unimpeachable. With friends like that, who needs friends?

He wasn't the first antigay public official, however, nor will he be the last (unfortunately) ...

Morgan and Blake and Boles, Oh My!

Former House Republican Speaker Richard Morgan, who is running for a Senate seat now, attacked Rep. Jamie Boles in an open letter for voting for the antibullying bill that passed last year, protecting all students from harassment in school.

The letter, paid for and distributed by the Richard Morgan Campaign Committee, includes the line "... and up in Raleigh you’re the only Republican in the House voting with the Democrats to pass gay rights legislation."

Including gay students in antibullying protections is now gay rights? And the irony is that Boles didn't vote for final passage of the School Violence Prevention Act.

It's not news that the LGBT community continues to be an easy target for bigoted politicians to use in seeking power and raising money. Consider ...

The Forrester for the Trees ...

Remember back in February when state Sen. Jim Forrester spoke to the Iredell County Young Republicans? He told them that "Slick city lawyers and homosexual lobbies and African American lobbies are running Raleigh."

You'd think this was a setup for some satire on North Carolina's bigoted past, but sadly he was as sincere as could be.

Ironically, if what he said were true, there's no way he would have been able to say it or get away with it.

The sadness and humor of bigotry and ignorance are nothing new, but they serve as a constant reminder of the work we need to do. LGBT North Carolinians have come a long way in our struggle for fair and equal treatment, but there's still work to do.

To support Equality NC's work for equality for LGBT North Carolinians, please click here.

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