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Rejecting gay bashing

/ 04:12 PM March 05, 2014

Last week, the Inquirer quietly tweaked the title of an article on the front page, deleting the word “fag” and replacing it with “gay.”

The piece by columnist Ramon Tulfo was about a woman who married a man who turned out to be gay.

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It clearly was a difficult but private family matter, but what stood out was the crude gay-bashing tone of the piece, highlighted by the slur in the headline.

The Inquirer came out with an apology, according to cultural activist John Silva who raised the issue on Facebook. But the apology apparently appeared only in the print version of the Inquirer.

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It’s not in the original piece where it clearly belongs. In fact, while the headline has been changed, the word “fag” was still used in the text of the piece for a few days after the headline was changed.

It’s an unfortunate lapse for a publication with a proud progressive journalism tradition. But PDI’s decision to delete the offensive word and apologize was perhaps also a sign of the times.

To be sure, the editorial glitch happened at a time of heightened attention to the plight of gays and their struggle for civil rights.

Homophobia has reached a new low in Africa where the open persecution of gays has been legalized and where a head of state like Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni made a stunning public statement calling gays “disgusting.”

In Arizona, the state legislature recently passed a bill that would have given businesses the right to use religion to deny services to gays.

The bill ended up being vetoed by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer who argued that while religious freedom is a core principle of the U.S. system, so is non-discrimination.

The irony is that Brewer is not exactly known as a champion of civil rights: She’s the governor who signed the state’s infamous “papers please” law aimed at undocumented immigrants.

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But she had no choice. A politician who could still afford to align herself with anti-immigrant forces for political gain has discovered that, when it comes to gay rights, times have changed.

The veto reflected a new reality at least in the U.S. While homophobia remains a sad, dangerous reality in many parts of the world, in others, including many parts of the U.S., attitudes have changed.

In many cases, the changes have been dramatic.

Ten years ago, San Francisco shocked the rest of the U.S. by granting gay couples the right to marry.  The city handed out marriage licenses to hundreds of couples as many in the Bay Area celebrated the daring act of political defiance.

But many, including those of us who cheered friends and colleagues who finally were given the chance to be legally married, knew the celebration would likely be be short-lived.

A fellow journalist and I even thought that then San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom had just committed political suicide, that he would never be elected to any public office outside of San Francisco.

In fact, the following year, during the 2004 presidential elections, right-wing politicians used the gay marriage issue, including the San Francisco weddings, to rally ultraconservatives who came out to vote for anti-gay marriage state laws throughout the U.S. and helped George W. Bush secure a second term.

It is amazing how the tide has shifted the other way in a decade.

This was underscored by the defeat of many state laws against gay marriage including in such states as California and Texas.

This has long been no-brainer of an issue in the Bay Area where my wife and I have many gay friends and co-workers.

Many gay and lesbian couples we know are parents like us. They celebrate and worry about the same things we do: our kids’ achievements, the challenges of raising them as decent and productive members of society, making sure they are healthy and do well in school, making sure they don’t do drugs or smoke and that they stay out of trouble.

But my wife and I have one thing they may not have: the protection of the law.

If I get seriously sick, my wife will be able to make decisions that a hospital or health care providers must honor. Same thing if I die: She would have the legal right to make decisions on such critical matters as our finances and even the welfare of our children.

Our gay and lesbian friends don’t enjoy these rights.

That may change soon as the political climate changes, which is evident even in American sports.

Jason Collins became the first openly gay player in the NBA, while college football player Michael Sam also came out just as the NFL draft was about to start.

“The most you can do is stand up for what you believe in,” Collins was quoted as saying in a Time magazine report. “I’m much happier since coming out to my friends and family. Being genuine and honest makes me happy.”

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TAGS: civil rights, gay bashing, gqy rights, homophobia, Ramon Tulfo
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