From: D Lewis
Subject: Gay Life Outside of Cities (i.e., Central Illinois) -- NYT
Date: Sun, 21 Jan 96 16:19:46 -0500
Web Page: http://www.webcom.com/dsl
In an article on page 9 of Sunday's National Edition of The New York
Times, reporter Dirk Johnson takes a look at the emerging gay culture in
small cities and rural areas of the U.S.
Johnson specifically focuses on Bloomington, Ill., because the City
Council of that "Middle American" community will vote Monday on a proposal to
ban discrimination against homosexuals. That the council is voting on the
proposal is remarkable in that the city's two establishments catering
primarily to gay men and lesbians -- a nightclub and a bookstore -- have only
been open for about a year, according to the Times. And those interested in
forming an advocacy group for gay men and lesbians in Bloomington had their
organizational meeting in November, though it attracted more than 150 people.
Robert Bray of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force told Johnson that
gay men and lesbians in rural areas aren't following their predecessors, who
packed up and moved to big cities. "Instead, these native sons and daughters
of small towns are keeping their roots and making their presence felt," Bray
In Bloomington, supporters of the antidiscrimination measure have been
hit with eggs, Johnson said, and the homes of four opponents of the ordinance
(including the mayor's) have been spray-painted with the words "gay pride."
Johnson notes that supporters of the measure blame opponents for the
vandalism in a ploy to obtain public sympathy.
The Illinois chapter of the Christian Coalition has sent the City Council
copies of "The Gay Agenda," according to the article. However, Johnson quotes
a self-described fundamentalist Christian on the city's Human Relations
Commission who supports the ordinance even though he believes homosexuality
"I spent a lot of time looking at the Bible," said the commissioner, Marc
Miller. "But I find it difficult to say that I want to impose Christian
morality as law. Not everyone in our society is Christian. And their rights
and views should be respected."
Miller, who notes that his opinion is not popular with his peers at his
church, said he was influenced by the testimony during a hearing in November
of gay men and lesbians who expressed fear of losing their jobs.
Opponents of the ordinance cite Biblical passages in their letters to
Bloomington's daily newspaper, The Pantagraph, which prompted one female
reader to note that the Bible seems to excuse slavery and gives men power
over women. "Shall we defer to the man to make decisions for us because the
Bible tells us to? You can if you want; I'm not," her letter to the newspaper
Johnson reports two teen-agers came out to their families during the
debate over the ordinance. One young man was "kicked out of a house and told
never to return." In the other case, the mother told Johnson she "felt like
my life was over," but when she told her parish priest, the padre reminded
her "he's the same sweet kid he was this morning."
The mother had always believed homosexuals were "weird and perverted,"
but she dropped by Once Upon A Time Alternative Books and Gifts, the
bookstore in Bloomington operated by two lesbians. "I walked in and looked at
these two women. They looked just like me. I started to cry and said, 'I need
help.' They sat down with me and got me some coffee and talked with me about
my son," she told Johnson.
A bill to outlaw discrimination against homosexuals is pending in the
Nebraska legislature, Johnson said, and antidiscrimination measures have been
passed in towns as small as Marshall, Minn. (population 12,000).
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