In a country that doesn't (officially) recognize state-sponsored religion, whose Constitution says "all men are created equal," where bigotry and bias are abhorred — why do otherwise intelligent and sensitive people feel they can engage in hate speech against gay people?

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Thursday, March 16, 2006

Pro-Family Group Not Pro-Compassion

Once again, a conservative group shows it's not so compassionate, not so Christian.

In this day and age, how educated is it to still believe that HIV only affects gay people, that HIV can be transmitted though casual contact that doesn't involve the exchange of bodily fluids, that gay sex always involves HIV and — especially — that any time gay people (or even HIV-positive people, for that matter) gather, sex will ensue?

And how caring and pro-family is it to expend energy desperately stigmatizing and castigating people who have a chronic condition but still have the stength of body, spirit and will to heroically endeavor to participate in a competitive sports event?

In its report, the Chicago Sun-Times puts the group's self-administered label "pro-family" in quotations. Later on, the newpaper highlights as a sub-headline the phrase "Tired Right-Wing Strategy." They must understand the hypocritical irony here, too.

Group Targets HIV Athletes At Gay Games

A "pro-family" group wants the Bush administration to revoke its decision to allow HIV-positive foreigners to enter the country for the Gay Games in Chicago this summer.

At the urging of Mayor Daley and U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), the U.S. Department of Homeland Security agreed to a blanket waiver of a federal law that keeps HIV-infected people from visiting the United States without special permission, federal officials said. Similar waivers were given for the 1994 Gay Games in New York.

Still, Peter LaBarbera, executive director of the Glen Ellyn-based Illinois Family Institute, says the waivers for the Gay Games in Chicago will create a potential public health threat.

He says he has enlisted the help of influential conservative groups in Washington, including Concerned Women of America, to get the president's ear.

Specifically, LaBarbera says a gay bathhouse listed on the games' Web site as a sponsor promotes "reckless sexual behavior" that could "pave the way for spreading [HIV]."

"The people of Chicago should know we have a ban on HIV travelers, it's there to protect citizens, and it's not a wise move to remove the ban," he said. "People on the pro-family side are not too pleased with it, and we're putting pressure on to reinstate the ban."

A White House spokesman did not return calls seeking comment.

Gay Games spokesman Kevin Boyer called the IFI's attempt to connect the event to the spread of HIV "abhorrent and irresponsible . . . fear mongering."

"The Illinois Family Institute strategy is to paint the Gay Games as nothing more than a series of stereotypes of gay sex. It's a strategy that's not true," he said. "It's a sports and culture festival, and no amount of stereotypes and bigotry can change that."

'Tired Right-Wing Strategy'

…LaBarbera's group argues that the Gay Games bathhouse sponsor and other "extracurricular" activities show the event is about promoting a lifestyle more than athletics.

"These bathhouses can be very dangerous when you invite HIV in with an exception. The doors are closed, and you don't know what's going on inside," LaBarbera said. "That shows there's much more going on than just playing softball. . . . They're celebrating homosexuality and the more unseemly aspects of it."

Boyer said the attempt to equate HIV with the gay community is using a "tired right-wing strategy" that isn't accepted by society.

Read the entire article here.

On a side note, it's illuminating to know the members of the Illinois Family Institute (I dare say I agree that these people certainly belong in some sort of institute) have frequented a gay bathhouse. They claim to know enough about what goes on in one to testify about what goes on there. Director Peter LaBarbera, especially, seems to have a membership card — how else would he know all "the doors are closed"?

Come July, I'll post directions to Glen Ellyn and a map of how to reach the IFI's offices. I think it would be fitting for any HIV-positive athlete to spend a few minutes there. I'll search extra hard for LaBarbera's home address, too. Or, you can probably just find him at the bathhouse.


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