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For the week of Sept. 1, 1999 through Sept. 7, 1999

Dark Ages logic used to attack gay issues program

Commentary by PAT MURPHY

Fiddle-faddle on alarmists trying to blackout Idaho Public Television’s airing of "It’s Elementary," a discussion dealing with homosexual issues.

Critics subscribe to the balderdash that merely showing "It’s Elementary" (a) is promoting homosexuality; and (b) the program may seduce swarms of young people into suddenly switching to homosexuality.

Gov. Dirk Kempthorne had the good sense to refuse to sign on with a few loony legislators who want to punish Idaho Public Television through the purse.

Long before television, there was homosexuality. Homosexuality predated the birth of Christ, which means, before the invention of Idaho Public television.

This sort of assault isn’t new for public broadcasting. It has endured battles since its founding over programs that religious and political critics condemn.

PBS created an uproar with a Cold War series examining communism. Critics suggested the show would drive droves of Americans into the arms of Marxism, which it didn’t.

And when sex education was introduced into public schools, PBS and its local affiliates were again under siege for airing "This is Sex."

It may be another generation or two before homosexuality is accepted with intelligence. Today’s anti-gay policymakers and religious leaders surely don’t and can’t.

Their reasoning seems to be that so long as they don’t know who’s gay, and aren’t forced to think about it, no problem.

That means one to 10 percent of the U.S. population that’s gay (no one seems sure how many) is acceptable to religious zealots and conservative politicians so long as they’re out of sight, out of mind. Classic blissful ignorance.

Consider examples of two outed gays, Steve May and Mel White.

May is a Republican member of the Arizona state legislature’s House, and an officer in the Army National Guard. May acknowledged during legislative debate that he’s gay, and for that, he may be booted out of the Guard. Until he merely mentioned being gay, May was thoroughly acceptable to the Army.

And the Rev. Mel White is a gifted speech writer who spun golden phrases for the likes of the Rev. Pat Robertson and the Rev. Jerry Falwell. But White came out of the closet and admitted being gay, and he was gone, although his speech writing skills are still just as artful as they were before Falwell and Robertson knew he was gay.

Except for junk religious deprogrammers, most reputable researchers agree homosexuality is genetic, not acquired. So, gays can’t and won’t vanish any more than African Americans and Jews will vanish because the Aryan Nations devoutly wants them to.

While other industrialized societies regard homosexuality with intelligence, the United States still wallows in the sort of ignorant treatment that the poor, mentally ill and tubercular suffered in the Dark Ages.

Murphy is the retired publisher of The Arizona Republic and a former radio commentator.



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