Sunday, September 21, 2008

NY Times Op-ed from 1992

This op-ed piece ran in The New York Times on September 3, 1992. For some reason the Times does not have it in its online database, though it is listed in the news summary at the very bottom.

Behind the Hate in Oregon
By Michelangelo Signorile

The New York Times

September 3, 1992 In Oregon, something similar to an "ethnic cleansing" is underway. It has transformed a once tolerant, progressive state into a repressive, frightful place.

Because of an antigay ordinance, the library shelves in Springfield are about to be purged of all books that "promote homosexuality." If voters approve a similar statewide measure in November, the same purification is likely to happen across Oregon. And libraries are just the beginning.

This energetic campaign is the work of the Oregon Citizen's Alliance, whose mass mailings make clear the caliber of its propaganda and its intended target: "Homosexual men, on average ingest the fecal material of 23 different men per year." The accusations vary in content, but not in virulence. "Homosexuals are 15 times more likely to commit murder than heterosexuals."

While those assertions play well to the ignorant, the alliance's most effective rallying cry to the rest of the populace--one that plays especially well in a depressed economy--is its distorted claim that gays are seeking preferential treatment: "Homosexuals already have the same basic rights as everyone else...however, homosexuals want 'special rights' granted to their behavior."

Mail is not the alliance's only channel. It has set up tables in shopping malls. Spokesmen regularly pop up on radio and television interviews. The group runs ads on cable TV exploiting gay pride parades.

In the name of preserving "family values," Lon Mabon, the group's leader, often quotes Patrick Henry: "We must fight! I repeat it, sir, we must fight! An appeal to the God of Hosts is all that is left us!"

The twisting of patriotic oratory, among other tactics, seems to be working. The alliance places a measure on the statewide ballot in 1988 to rescind then Gov. Neil Goldshmidt's order barring discrimination against gays in state jobs. It passed. In May, the alliance lobbied in Springfield for a measure to prevent the town from "promoting" homosexuality. That also passed.

Mr. Mabon's organization is now pushing an amendment to the Oregon Constitution declaring that homosexuality is "abnormal, wrong, unnatural, and perverse" and that "state monies shall not be used to "promote, facilitate or encourage" homosexuality. Political analysts expect the measure to pass. "I think it has a good shot," said Tim Hibbitts, a pollster in Portland.

What is the organization's larger agenda? To end "reverse discrimination," the "dismembering of the unborn child," redistributionist welfare," and "atheistic, humanistic liberalism" in Oregon. Joined by similar organizations in California, Maine and Colorado, the alliance plans to take its show on the road.

In such an atmosphere of hatred, many lesbians and gays have decided to sell their homes and leave the state. After the alliance's victory in Springfield, local gay leaders had the windows of their cars and homes shattered in the middle of the night.

In the weeks that followed a lesbian activist was run of the road by thugs who screamed, "Queer!" In Portland, the windows of a hair salon with anti-alliance stickers were smashed by a gang yelling anti-gay epithets. The owner of a women's erotica shop had her car vandalized by people holding signs that read "Homosexuality is a Perversion."

In June, the offices of Campaign for a Hate Free Oregon, an organization opposed to the alliance, were burglarized. Soon thereafter, people whose names were on the lists started to receive anonymous, threatening telephone calls. Portland's two gay newspapers also had their files stolen.

The alliance has waged war on government as well. It is a driving force behind an effort to recall Gov. Barbara Roberts, who supports gay rights. The group has also demanded that Tom Potter, Portland's police chief, resign because his daughter is a lesbian.

Neo-Nazi groups have picked up the scent of fascism and are moving into Oregon, recruiting youths and turning out at alliance rallies. In recent days, a black woman and a white woman who live together in Portland had crosses and swastikas burned on their lawn. Officials of the Homophobic Violence Reporting Line point to a surge of "firebombings and attempted homicides." Portland police confirm an increase in the severity of violent crimes against gays.

Last month, Mr. Mabon was feted in Washington by Housing Secretary Jack Kemp and Republican Senators Orrin Hatch and Phil Gramm, who were trying to deter him from an independent campaign against Senator Bob Packwood of Oregon this fall. Who knows what was promised behind closed doors, but Mr. Mabon backed down. And the Republican Party, whose convention he likened to an alliance rally, has been shockingly silent. Meanwhile, the campaign of terror in Oregon continues.

Copyright The New York Times 1992. All rights reserved. Not for reprint without sole permission.