The Human Rights Campaign and National Gay and Lesbian Task Force have condemned Rev. Lou Sheldon's "heartless attack" on the families of gay victims who died in the Sept. 11 terrorist strike an assault on basic human dignity.
In a Cybercast News Service report, Sheldon, chairman of the anti-gay Traditional Values Coalition, bitterly complained that the American Red Cross and other relief agencies were allowing the partners of gay victims to be eligible for relief funds.
" [ Relief organizations ] should be first giving priority to those widows who were at home with their babies, and those widowers who lost their wives," Sheldon said in the CNS article. "It should be given on the basis and priority of one man and one woman in a marital relationship. This is just another example of how the gay agenda is seeking to overturn the one man-one woman relationship from center stage in America, taking advantage of this tragedy."
"We are dismayed that Sheldon would choose this time to attack families who are in mourning and dealing with the loss of a loved one," said HRC Political Director Winnie Stachelberg. "Relief should be given regardless of sexual orientation." Addressing HRC's National Dinner Saturday, Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., said surviving partners of gay and lesbian victims should get the same benefits that the families of other victims receive, saying "domestic partners should enjoy the same benefits afforded other couples."
"We have to make clear that what we're fighting for is our values," said Clinton. "And that includes ending discrimination against gays and lesbians once and for all." According to Clinton, that includes the same health insurance, inheritance, property taxes and other assistance.
"Lou Sheldon's hateful rhetoric has again crossed the line," said Lorri L. Jean, executive director of NGLTF. "This is a time when everyone should stand united in support of the terrorism victims."
Sheldon lashed out at the GLBT organizations...especially New York's Empire State Pride Agenda...that are working with relief agencies to help ensure that assistance is dispensed in a nondiscriminatory way. Sheldon, in an ironic statement, accused GLBT organizations of "taking advantage of this ... tragedy to promote their agenda."
The New York-based Stonewall Community Foundation has established the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Disaster Relief Fund to help those GLBT individuals directly impacted by the World Trade Center disaster. The tax-deductible donations will be allocated by a community panel to where the greatest unmet needs of the community are, either through existing relief funds that are practicing in a nondiscriminatory way or through the creation of new services to meet unmet needs.
Checks should be made payable to Stonewall Community Foundation, earmarked for "Disaster Relief." Donations should be sent to: Stonewall Community Foundation, 119 West 24th Street, New York, NY 10011. The Foundation's phones are out of service due to the disaster, but they can be reached at email@example.com or through a temporary number ( 646 ) 230-6999.
Meanwhile, breaking a three-week trend of near-invisibility in television news, gay heroes who have emerged from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks were the subject of a CNN story last week. They profiled openly gay New York City firefighters and police officers who have been on the front lines at ground zero since Sept. 11. CNN also profiled Mark Bingham, one of the United Flight 93 passengers who participated in an on-board revolt that crashed the hijacked plane into a remote field outside Pittsburgh, rather than into any potential target.
The CNN piece aired three days after a less-inclusive profile of United Flight 93's heroes on the Oct. 2 edition of NBC's Dateline. The report, which constructed a detailed timeline of the United flight, included an interview with Bingham's mother and mentioned his passion for rugby, but did not mention either that he was gay or that he played for a gay rugby team.
Kevin Cathcart, executive director of the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, wrote a letter to The New York Times Oct. 2 noting his concern: "Unfortunately, surviving family members of lesbian and gay victims face additional anxieties. For those not legally recognized as a spouse of a victim...including every same-sex partner...access to public and private relief programs might not come easily. Regardless of how respectful each individual agency may be, the lesbian and gay partners carry the nagging insecurity of not knowing whether they will be recognized as family members. Will they be eligible for rental assistance, crime victims' relief, death benefits, help with funeral expenses, even bereavement leave?"
Nearly 1,000 members and allies of the LGBT community packed New York City's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center last week to remember and honor those lost in and affected by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
The event, co-sponsored by more than 80 community and AIDS organizations from New York and across the country, was hosted by Kate Clinton.
The many ways gays are left out
Considering the anti-gay nature of many of those groups raising funds, it seems likely that not just the outspoken right-wingers will impact distribution of money.
... The Red Cross continue to disallow blood donations from gay men...even those who test HIV negative. Meanwhile, heterosexuals, even those with questionable backgrounds, are not barred as a class from donating. Red Cross said it will not discriminate in distributing money.
... The United Way is one of the agencies raising money for Sept. 11 victims. United Ways around the U.S. also continue to back Boy Scouts funding.
... Speaking of the Boy Scouts, that group benefits every time "God Bless America" is sung in public, including by Kate Smith in gay bars such as Sidetrack. A portion of proceeds from the song goes to the Scouts...millions have been raised.
In other charity news, the Chicago Gay Men's Chorus will participate in a concert Sunday, Oct. 14, Opening the Curtain to Our Hearts, to celebrate the American spirit and help raise money for The Families of Freedom Scholarship fund, launched by President Clinton and Sen. Bob Dole to benefit the children and spouses of victims of Sept. 11, 2001.
The performance is 8 p.m., Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress. Other performers include: Chicago Shakespeare Theatre; Chicago Musicians of the Baroque with friends from the Chicago Symphony; Deeply Rooted Dance Theatre; Goodman Theatre; Hubbard Street 2; Joffrey Ballet; Lyric Opera; Luna Negra Dance and more.
Tickets $40-$100, ( 312 ) 902-1500, ticketmaster.com . CGMC will be inducted into Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame Oct. 24.