"DOES YOUR ORGANIZATION ADVOCATE any kind of treatment for gays and lesbians to see if they can change them and make them normal like other people?" asked 83-year-old Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Strom Thurmond, his thin voice crackling like a gramophone.
Jeffrey Levi, executive director of the 10,000-member National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, had waited 13 hours to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Only moments before Thurmond's curveball, Levi had become the first person ever to speak on behalf of gay Americans at the confirmation hearing of a Supreme Court justice, forcefully opposing William Rehnquist's elevation to chief justice of the United States.
Momentarily speechless, Levi responded, "Well, senator, we consider ourselves to be quite normal, thank you." Levi heard a pair of liberal straight women giggling sympathetically behind him. "We just happen to be different from other people," continued Levi, conservatively dressed in a dark suit and burgundy tie. "And the beauty of the American society is that ultimately we do accept all differences of behavior and viewpoint. To answer the question more seriously, the predominant scientific viewpoint is that homosexuality is probably innate; if not innate, then formed very early in life. The responsible medical community no longer considers homosexuality an illness but rather something that is just a variation of standard behavior."
The hour was very late, nearly midnight, on July 31, 1986. The brightly lit, high-ceilinged Senate Judiciary Committee hearing room had earlier overflowed with spectators and camera crews. Now it seemed eerily cavernous. In the front of the room, nameplates marked