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Jewish World Review March 15, 2000/8 Adar II, 5760

Don Feder

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Californians and Dr. Laura defend morality -- WHILE CALIFORNIANS SPOKE OUT against same-sex marriage last week, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) continued its campaign to suppress the free-speech rights of Dr. Laura Schlessinger.

By portraying homosexuals as a persecuted minority, the gay-rights movement has succeeded in manipulating elites -- politicians, media and the judiciary.

With ordinary (non-angst driven) individuals, the approach is a dismal failure.

The movement's campaign against Proposition 22 -- a constitutional amendment providing "only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California" -- is the latest in a string of popular defeats stretching from Maine to Hawaii.

California's entire establishment was arrayed against Prop. 22 -- from Democratic Gov. Gray Davis to GOP Senate candidate Tom Campbell. (Vice President Al Gore called it "mean-spirited.") Newspaper editorials denounced it. In TV spots, sitcom stars inveighed against it.

The mother of Matthew Shepard, the gay student murdered in Wyoming, told reporters the initiative was spawned by the same hatred that caused her son's death. This makes as much sense as saying that the social sanction of homosexuality motivated two gay men to rape and murder 14-year-old Jesse Dirkhising.

Once again, the public ignored elitist guilt trips. The pro-22 campaign assembled a citizen army of 125,000 volunteers. Over half a million "Yes on 22" yard signs were distributed.

Prop. 22 passed by a vote of 61 percent to 39 percent, in the process carrying a majority of men and women, as well as every race, age group and income bracket. Over 70 percent of Hispanics backed the measure.

On the other side of the country, Vermont is under a judicial mandate to adopt either same-sex marriage or domestic partnerships. On Super Tuesday, 50 town meetings held nonbinding votes on gay marriage. All rejected it, by majorities from 60 percent to 80 percent. Domestic partnerships lost in 26 of 30 towns.

But while gay activists suffer defeat after crushing defeat at the polls, in the culture they are triumphant.

This fall, Dr. Laura will host a television show, produced and syndicated by Paramount. On Feb. 14, GLAAD met with studio officials to "voice concern" over the radio psychologist's "bigoted perspective." An inter-faith alliance, organized by Peter LaBarbera of Americans for Truth About Homosexuality, has asked Paramount for a meeting to protest GLAAD's attempted thought-control.

GLAAD says it doesn't want to censor Dr. Laura. (Not much!) It does, however, demand that when she voices views contrary to its own, they "not be unopposed." If Paramount capitulates to GLAAD, will it also present the other side every time it has a gay-affirming character in a TV show or movie?

In an Aug. 23, 1998, broadcast, America's most popular radio personality confessed: "I've always told people who opposed homosexuality that they were homophobic, bad and bigoted and idiotic. I was wrong. It is destructive." "Gay rights?" Dr. Laura asked rhetorically in a June 9, 1999 show. "Why does deviant sexual behavior get rights?"

On Friday, Schlessinger issued a statement regretting "words I've used" that have "hurt some people." This is a clarification, Dr. Laura told me, not an apology. She will continue to recommend reparative therapy (for homosexuals who want to change), to oppose same-sex marriage and adoption, and to champion Judeo-Christian sexual ethics.

Hers is not the only countercultural voice being raised. Increasingly, people without political offices or media forums are speaking out in defense of their families, faith and morality.

The New York Times reported that on the day Californians voted for Prop. 22, at a town meeting in Athens, Vt., a mechanic named Wayne Ryan fumed, "I believe it's against our constitutional rights to have government and legislation change the word 'marriage' to mean something as ill and foul as same-sex partners."

This is the voice of America -- of black, white and Hispanic America -- heard repeatedly in opinion polls, ballot questions and public forums. If the culture remains deaf to its pleas and continues to be swayed by a strident minority, it will have to find other -- more persuasive -- means of expression.

JWR contributing columnist Don Feder's latest book is Who's Afraid of the Religious Right. Comment on his column by clicking here.

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© 2000, Creators Syndicate