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AN AGGIE LINE: USU cheerleaders perform during the Aggies' final exhibition game. It's time to cheer for basketball. / Photo by Brianna Mortensen

Today's word on journalism

Friday, November 10, 2006

Q&A with Ed Bradley:

Q: What single issue should be covered more at CBS News?
A: Foreign news.

Q: Have you ever been assigned a story you objected to? How did you deal with it?
A: When I first started in New York at WCBS radio, the assignment editor automatically assigned any story that had a minority in it to me. I objected to being typecast and told him if I didn't get a variety of stories -- as other reporters did -- then I would take it up with the news director.

Q: If you were not in news, what would you be doing?
A: If I had the talent, I'd play bass guitar and sing in a kicking band.

--Ed Bradley, reporter, "60 Minutes," died yesterday of leukemia at age 65 (2006)

A reconciliation of conscience: National Coming Out Day 2006

By Les Roka

October 6, 2006 | Nevin R. Feather, a Library of Congress employee, was clearly frightened by the letter he received on June 28, 1962, from his superiors, demanding written responses to a report suggesting that he found members of the male sex "attractive," that he had been in bed with men and that he "enjoyed embracing them."

Feather was ordered to answer if the report was true, and, if so, why had he lied on the report of his medical history asking if he had "homosexual tendencies." Finally, in the event that the report was false, government officials demanded that Feather then account for why the report was made.

Just a few days ago, that letter was among more than 70,000 documents, pieces of correspondence and memorabilia donated to the Library of Congress by Frank Kameny, a gay civil rights activist who helped Feather and countless other federal employees during the 1950s and 1960s when they were stripped of their jobs and security clearances. The collection includes a 1966 policy statement by the U.S. Civil Service Commission to Kameny about why gays were not suitable for federal employment as well as the campaign to persuade the American Psychiatric Association to reject the classification of homosexuality as a mental illness.

Perhaps no other civil rights activist did more than Kameny to wage the battle for gay rights, beginning long before Stonewall. There is no question that Kameny's courageous campaign was successful.

However, recent events in Washington also show that some insidious hostilities remain. And, in an extraordinary expression of folly and irony, the sudden downfall of Mark Foley -- because of a gay sex scandal that, strangely enough, may not have even involved actual sex -- could strip the Republican Party's majority from possibly both houses of Congress.

In the advent of National Coming Out Day on Wednesday, GOP leaders and members would do themselves and their party a favor by reconciling their conscience about what they know and should know about gay people. Foley's pathological closet identity reflects a pretty serious problem about Republicans when it comes to their claim of being the principled gatekeepers of morals and values, whatever those terms are supposed to embrace within the elaborate language of spin.

Andrew Sullivan, who had argued quite passionately for the cause of gay Republicans and who supported George Bush's election in 2000, summed up the fallout of the Foley episode precisely: "But this much I now believe: if [House Speaker Dennis] Hastert didn't know, he should have. If he was told, he should remember. It's the kind of thing someone who actually cares about the pages would instantly remember. My guess (and I do not know for sure) is that he chose not to know, because he needed a seat in Florida. If that's true, people are right to be mad."

To be fair, few politicians -- regardless of the sides of the partisan aisle they occupy -- maneuver the issue of sexuality with poise, eloquence, and sincerity. However, the Republicans stumble on this issue to the point of absurdity and outright stupidity.

On one hand, the party's leadership is quite enthused about its Log Cabin organization for gay members. President Bush's record on political appointments for gay staffers just about measures up to his immediate predecessor's portfolio. In fact, Colin Powell, when he was Secretary of State, introduced the new American ambassador to Romania, and he brought the diplomat's gay partner to the podium.

The negative actions, however, dramatically outstrip these encouraging signs and the litany is distressingly long. Republicans have led aggressive campaigns in states across the country to ban permanently the civil rights of gay couples to marry. And, then there is the outrageous suggestion by Newt Gingrich, a Republican and former speaker of the House, that had his party's leadership publicly disciplined Foley, the GOP would have been labeled as homophobic. Homophobic?!! A casual scan of gay newspapers, blogs, and magazines will show that not one commentator has excused Foley.

Log Cabin Republicans, in particular, should really search their souls. To have been baited into supporting Republican candidates and then to have been lied to in the sole selfish interest of retaining political power should be viewed unconditionally as unacceptable in principle. Using the politically correct cover of avoiding the appearance of homophobia is an appalling tactic to excuse the absence of basic responsibility to safeguard young people against predators.

Gay Republicans may have been comforted by the fact that the GOP has tolerated them. However, in a party that counts on the support of substantial segments who hold gays in vicious contempt and who believe they are second-class citizens, gay Republicans should be wondering just how skittish their party might be in having gay political leaders. After all, how does one reconcile the political paradoxes of a party that has evangelical Christians and openly gay activists?

There are important lessons that spring from these sad events. First, for those frightened at the prospect [or risk] of living openly, happily, and comfortably, take note of the advancements made possible by Kameny's courageous leadership. The hostilities of 40 years ago have dissipated, especially in the workplace. The closet is a terrible place to be, as the Foley case demonstrates.

Homophobia might drive people to the closet but homophobia hurts straight people as terribly as it does gays. The tyranny of the closet unravels marriages, separates families, wounds children, and shatters the trust of loving spouses and partners.

How do we stop the bigotry? A good place is at next month's midterm elections. If indeed we were a principled electorate, then we would act in good conscience to hold accountable any politician who has used this most abhorrent form of bigotry to preserve their own power. Straight, bisexual, transgendered, or gay -- we all need to come out for a society that believes everyone has the right to express his or her love responsibly and constructively.

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