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Music Cues: Millenial March for Gay & Lesbian Rights
Scott Simon
April 8, 2000

Scott Simon commentary on the Millenial March for Gay & Lesbian Rights

The fact that several hundred thousand people are converging on the capital of the United States this weekend to call for equal rights, specifically for gays and lesbians, is no longer considered remarkable. In fact, there are many U.S. citizens--unprejudiced, perhaps, but also uninterested--who tell public opinion analysts that bigotry against gays and others considered somehow "different" is beginning to disappear.

The state of Vermont, after all, has just passed legislation giving legal standing to domestic partnerships. Both major party presidential candidates say they welcome gay support. People may disagree over what legal steps are wisest to relieve the effects of prejudice. But pollsters tell candidates that appearing to be a bigot is unappealing public relations--at least for the moment.

Then again, as you follow the news, you encounter the persistence of prejudice.

Just yesterday, a man in Pittsburgh was arrested for shooting a Jewish woman, two Asian men, and an Indian and black man. The technical term police apply is "shooting spree." But though the victims may have been randomly selected by a sick mind, it was their perceived "ethnicity" that made them targets.

And a small detail in the dispute over the Elian Gonzales is that when Fidel Castro's government began to leak information about how it was that Lazaro Gonzales and his family left Cuba in the early 1980's, they made a point of informing reporters that he had been suspected of homosexual activity. Amnesty International says that there are several hundred gays locked up in Fidel Castro's prisons, where homosexuality is still classified as immoral conduct.

I wonder if any of the Miami activists who campaign against Fidel Castro's many oppressions are joining the gay rights marches in Washington DC this weekend, to show common cause?

Although the overwhelming number of letters and phone calls we receive are kind, much of the crank stuff--slurs, nonsense, and a few outright threats--are anti-gay, anti-Semitic or often, a merrilly-bigoted combination of the two.

As one of Graham Greene's characters exclaims in The Comedians, "When the world needs someone to blame, there is always someone to be found--the Jew, the negro, the Catholic, the latest arrival."

Elmer Gertz, the staunch Chicago attorney who died this week at the age of 93, was once asked how he could defend accused murderers and sleaze merchants as well as civil rights champions. "I remind myself of the constitution," he said. "That freedom is indivisible."