Politicians Range from Abusive to Ambiguous with LGBT Community

Politicians Range from Abusive to Ambiguous with LGBT Community

Three words often used to describe America are modern, fair and free. However, our political system is anything but that when it comes to issues pertaining to the LGBT community.

Let’s take Carl Paladino as a prime example. The 64 year old politician was running to become the New York State governor. On October 10th, 2010, Paladino held a meeting with Orthodox Jewish leaders in Borough Park, Brooklyn. During the meeting he gave an anti-gay speech. He said that being gay is “not the example we should be showing our children” and that he opposes the homosexual agenda, “whether they call it marriage, civil unions or domestic partnership. Marriage is between a man and a woman – period.” He also went on to criticize Andrew Cuomo, his opponent for NYS governor and the ultimate victor, for participating in New York City’s gay pride parade.

The most disturbing part about Paladino’s decision to give his spite-filled tirade was his timing. His speech came right after several anti-gay hate crimes and the suicides of seven gay teens, who had been abused because of their sexuality. Even though his timing seemed like more than just a mere coincidence, he insisted that he was not condoning violence. "Don't misquote me as wanting to hurt homosexual people in any way," he said. "My approach is live and let live.” Carl did not seem to realize that though he was not physically abusing the LGBT community during his speech, he was verbally abusing them, which also has a serious impact.

Paladino cut a wound into his campaign; his apology was only a band-aid. Two days later on October 12th, he took back his hate-filled remarks to the gay community. He stated, “If elected as your governor I will stand and fight for all gay New Yorkers’ rights. I ask you for forgiveness on my poorly chosen words and the publication by others not involved with our campaign of [an] unredacted script that did not reflect my oral statement or match my personal feelings.” There are few problems with this statement.

First, he claims that his speech was in fact not entirely in his own words but rather a script he was handed by rabbis at the synagogue. He says he did not fully agree with it. If that really was the case and the text was not written by him, why wouldn’t he alter it to reflect his own opinions?

Second, a day before his apology speech, Paladino was informed by his nephew that he is gay. Jeff Hannon, who worked for Paladino’s campaign, was very insulted by his uncle’s words and had not shown up to the campaign’s headquarters since the anti-gay speech. Is Paladino really apologizing to every gay, or just to his gay nephew who happens to work for him?

Finally, he was running to be New York State governor. Paladino wanted to win the election with as many votes as he could get. Not that his apology would actually help him with that, but it had to be put out there, so he wouldn’t seem like a bad guy.

The problem doesn’t only exist with failed candidates. Even the president is conflicted over the situation. Barack Obama supports civil unions and believes that gays should have the same rights as heterosexual couples. Still, he has not taken a stance on same-sex marriage. Michael D. Shear of The Washington Post says, “the issue of gay marriage — and, more broadly, the issue of gay rights — remains a sensitive one for a president who received a significant amount of support from the gay community.”

What’s the hold up, America? When young gay teens are committing suicide across the nation – from California to Texas to Indiana to New Jersey – because of homophobic abuse, it’s time for this country’s leaders to harness the power of their words. “This shouldn't be a political issue any more. When it's affecting the lives of our students, it's a human issue that needs to be dealt with,” Melissa Dearing, a Minnesota student, told reporters recently. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Christina Butan
Age 16, Grade 11,
Girls Write Now
Silver Key

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