More than any other election year, this one reflects the
country's continuing unease with the subject of sexual orientation.
The public battle over gay rights returns to Oregon with a ballot
measure that would prevent schools from discussing homosexuality or
bisexuality "in a manner which encourages, promotes, or sanctions
such behaviors." It's the fourth time Oregonians have faced the
But this is just one element in the broader spectrum of
controversies over gay rights. It's also reflected in the debates
over domestic-partner benefits and same-sex "civil unions," the Boy
Scouts of America's ban on gay scout leaders, whether or not to
broadcast talk-show host Laura Schlessinger's moralistic judgments
on homosexuality, and the telling differences in how the subject is
playing in the Republican and Democratic campaigns for the White
Among the ways in which conflicting and conflicted views on the
subject are exhibited politically and culturally:
*In addition to the Oregon vote, Nevada and Nebraska will vote on
proposals banning same-sex marriages. A ballot measure in Maine
would prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation.
*In Vermont, many state legislative races are tied up in the
fierce argument over that state's recent provision for "civil
unions" between same-sex couples. "Take Back Vermont" signs around
the state reflect opposition to the new law. In their primary
election tomorrow, Vermont Democrats are likely to nominate an
openly gay man as their candidate for the US Senate.
*Such major companies as United Airlines and Proctor & Gamble are
refusing to advertise on the new "Dr. Laura" television show, which
premiers today. Local TV affiliates in Boston and elsewhere have
wrestled with whether or not to air the controversial and widely
popular talk-show host who calls homosexuality "deviant" and a
*A school district in Orange County, Calif., last week settled a
federal lawsuit by allowing a gay-tolerance club to meet at El
Modena High School. Salt Lake City, Utah, has just ended a four-
year ban on nonacademic clubs imposed to keep a student "gay-
straight alliance" from meeting.
*Following the recent US Supreme Court 5-4 vote upholding the Boy
Scouts' position, several cities are preventing the Scouts from
using public land and facilities.
*Cities around the country are starting "domestic registries"
where same-sex couples can declare their partnerships and, in many
cases, qualify for benefits traditionally reserved for married
couples. Some 3,500 companies (about 10 percent of the US total) now
provide employment benefits to gay and lesbian couples.
Such issues have galvanized gay-rights activists, as well as
their opponents, many of whom see the upcoming elections as a forum
for their views.
"To place domestic partner relationships on a par with marriage
denigrates the marital imperative," says Robert Knight, director of
cultural studies for the Family Research Council, a conservative
advocacy group in Washington. …