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05/08/2007

Folger asks, 'Who Would Ronald Reagan Fire?'

by Jeremy Hooper

Picture 13-21In a new column she's penned for WorldNetDaily, Janet Folger details the performance of each of the leading GOP presidential candidates in last week's debate, and tells why she thinks few of them are fit to fill Ronald Reagan's AIDS-ignoring shoes. For White House hopeful Tommy Thompson (pic.), this means a condemnation of his post-debate retraction of comments that seemed to be supportive of a business' right to fire gay employees:

...Thompson had a right answer for the loaded question about the freedom of conscience – at first. Asked if a private employer should be able to fire a homosexual because of their homosexual behavior, Thompson said yes; however, the next day on CNN, he retracted it:

Thompson: I made a mistake. I misinterpreted the question. I thought that I answered it yes when I should have answered it no. I didn't hear, I didn't hear the question properly and I apologize. It's not my position. There should be no discrimination in the workplace, and I have never believed that. And, in fact, Wisconsin has one of the first laws, which I supported.

So now Mr. Thompson wants churches, Christian day cares, the Boy Scouts and business owners who are morally opposed to homosexuality to be forced to keep homosexual activists (how else do we know they're homosexual?) on the payroll – even if it violates their conscience, purpose and children in their care. Wrong answer; sit down, Tommy.

So first off, Ms. Folger's being flat out deceitful in her response to Thompson, as virtually every proposed employment non-dsicrimination plan -- including the federal initiative, ENDA -- makes an exemption for religious organizations. No church or Christian organization is going to be forced under any proposed guidelines to hire Larry Kramer as their new activities director! And it's enraging that the "pro-family" folks continue to claim otherwise, as these religion exemptions were explicitly put in to legislation like ENDA to appease their gay-accepting fears (as irrational as they might be). But just like with so many other pro-gay points, they deliberately muddy the truth so as to scare their base. They like to say that these exemptions are not good enough for their gay-antipathetic desires, claiming that individuals will still be forced to go against their faiths in terms of their hiring practices in their own businesses (even though ENDA does also contain a small business exemption). If by that they mean the head of a Fortune 500 company won't be free to use his religious beliefs to fire his gay marketing executive -- then yes, that IS what we're seeking. Unapologetically. However, within the confines of their places of worship and organizations that operate on a belief that Leviticus and Romans I are non-debatably gay-unfriendly, they will, under all proposed policies, be free to say no to anyone who doesn't fit their moral purview.

As for the idea that an employer only knows that someone is gay if they are a gay activist: Let's get f***Ing real, Ms. Folger! What constitutes "activism," talking about one's partner in the same way that heterosexual coworkers talk about the people most important to their lives? Because while it may be convenient to the cause of making gays look like angry militants out to undermine traditional society, it is absurd to claim that nobody is ever known to be gay in the workplace unless they are activists! And in fact, activism of any sort MIGHT be something that we could realistically see getting one fired from a job, if it constituted a situation in which political fights interfered with the workday or another's freedoms. However, we're not talking about the right to stage an ACT UP demonstration in the office place; we're talking about the right to exist as one truly is without fear that that truth will earn them the pink slip!

So getting back to the actual Thompson situation: We have trouble believing that he actually misinterpreted the question due to hearing aid trouble (like he claimed on "Real Time"), as his answer to it was just so thorough and direct. However, since he's been doing a whole press tour of sorts to distance himself from that response, we are willing to accept his explanation. No matter if it really were a misinterpretation, if his conscience reconsidered, or if he just thinks backing non-discrimination is more politically advantageous, he now seems to be on the right side of the issue. That's because no gay man or woman should have to worry that their job in a secular environment will be threatened if their truth comes to light. And no private employer SHOULD have the freedom to deny an otherwise proficient candidate on the sole basis of their sexual orientation (although, again, under proposed federal legislation, small businesses of less than 15 employees still would have that ability). It is such a disgusting misuse of the concept of "religious freedom" to suggest otherwise!

Does voicing support for workplace non-discrimination make a candidate un-Reaganlike? Probably. We, however, don't say that like it's a bad thing.

Will the real Ronald Reagan please stand up? [WND]

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Your thoughts

Wow. That's right, if you're out of the closet enough that your employer finds out you're gay, you're a homosexual activist. I now know why they're so happy to apply that word to all and sundry: if you know they're gay, they automatically count as activists. I guess we're all activists now. :)

Posted by: williehewes | May 8, 2007 11:36:49 AM

activists (how else do we know they're homosexual?)

I was pushed out of a job, back in the 80s, for being too soft spoken. My supervisor suspected I was gay and would not relent. She used to leave books and magazines out, that focussed about an employers right to fire employees with AIDS in a room to which she and I had soul access. One would have to flat out lie to them, which I wouldn't even do back then, to make them sort of leave one alone.

Posted by: ptboat | May 8, 2007 12:30:25 PM

I'm proud that these people call me an activist. It's important to remain visible and to stick up for oneself. Heck, I was taught, in my hypermasculine childhood household, that men always stood up for themselves. Well, now men and women can do it.

Posted by: ptboat | May 8, 2007 12:32:03 PM

Ms. Folger seems to not know much about Ronald Reagan. She has set up in her mind a fictional heroic Reagan that agreed with all of her biases and bigotry. That Reagan never existed.

In 1978 a California legislator, John Briggs, wrote and got onto the ballot an initiative that would have banned gays and lesbians from teaching in public schools. The polling was showing about 60% in favor with 30% opposed and was expected to pass.

Then some of his gay friends approached Ronald Reagan about coming out against the initiative. He had been a popular governor and was just about to begin a run for President. Although he was advised that it wasn't wise to piss off the conservatives right before an election bid, Reagan wrote an op-ed article strongly opposing the initiative. It was this article that is credited for changing the public opinion and the Briggs Initiative failed by about a million votes.

Though he is often portrayed that way, as President, Reagan was not particularly anti-gay. He came from a generation that "didn't talk about it", but he had gay friends and was not moralistic. Although he probably considered being gay an aberation, he had no problem with having gay friends. Nancy's decorator and his partner are considered to be the first gay couple to stay in the White House as a couple.

And his daughter Patti Davis (who was so opposed to his politics that she dropped his name) did come to his defense on this issue. She tells of how her father first introduced the notion of gay people to her:

http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,536971,00.html

I was about eight or nine years old when I learned that some people are gay — although the word "gay" wasn't used in those years. I don't remember what defining word was used, if any; what I do remember is the clear, smooth, non-judgmental way in which I was told. The scene took place in the den of my family's Pacific Palisades home. My father and I were watching an old Rock Hudson and Doris Day movie. At the moment when Hudson and Doris Day kissed, I said to my father, "That looks weird." Curious, he asked me to identify exactly what was weird about a man and woman kissing, since I'd certainly seen such a thing before. All I knew was that something about this particular man and woman was, to me, strange. My father gently explained that Mr. Hudson didn't really have a lot of experience kissing women; in fact, he would much prefer to be kissing a man. This was said in the same tone that would be used if he had been telling me about people with different colored eyes, and I accepted without question that this whole kissing thing wasn't reserved just for men and women.

I'm not mentioning this to somehow absolve Reagan from his actions (or inactions) on AIDS issues or to suggest that he was a champion of our community. He wasn't.

But the fact is that the real living Ronald Reagan was not the homophobe that Janet Folger idolizes nor would he have been in favor of firing gay people.

Posted by: Timothy | May 8, 2007 3:01:09 PM

Timothy: While I agree with some of what you say and think Reagan was friendlier to gays in private, he did do plenty to earn his public anti-gay reputation. He did oppose the horrible Briggs initiative. However, he is also on record as calling homosexuality a "tragic disease" in 1967, and saying in 1968 that it should be made illegal.

As for his AIDS legacy: There are some who deny that his administration's handling of the growing crisis was as bad as it's been portrayed. For me, however, the evidence is more than there to suggest that it was botched in a ignorant and even cruel fashion.

http://www.actupny.org/reports/reagan.html

Posted by: G-A-Y | May 8, 2007 3:35:37 PM

Jeremy,

I remember the Reagan years pretty well and I agree that he was woefully inadequate in his response to AIDS. I disagree with ACT-UP as to the degree or motivations behind his response. They do not have a history of accuracy or integrity - in fact their accomplishments were made possible by this lack - so while I admire much of what they have done, I don't refer to ACT-UP for factual confirmation. I remember them far too well for that.

I do not believe that Reagan was cruel though I suspect on the issue of AIDS he was both ignorant and badly advised. Most straight Americans were, frankly. And while Reagan's response was slow and insufficient, I do recall more than one year in which his requested budget for AIDS was larger than that approved by the Congress. And I do not recall him ever saying a disparaging word about either gay persons or AIDS sufferers. Yeah, I know, scant praise... but not the demon some claim that he was.

And though he may have thought homosexuality was a tragic disease in 1967, so did the AMA and the APA at that time. I don't know the 1968 reference to criminalizing - it would however seem peculiar as the California legislature did not repeal its sodomy law until 1976.

I guess I'm saying his policies or proposals were neither more supportive nor more homophobic that Jimmy Carter's or Walter Mondale's (his opponents) - incidentally I don't think any of the three were personally homophobic. And his response to AIDS was myopic and wrong.

But I think he was much more like Gerald Ford or Barry Goldwater than he was like George Bush or Bill Frist. And though I would never make the case that our community should idolize him, I think that Janet Folger would hate him if she looked a bit closer.

Posted by: Timothy | May 8, 2007 9:09:42 PM

Timothy: I should have clarified the link I posted to ACT UP. I only meant to highlight the audio, not the rest of the piece. Not that I'm saying I necessarily disagree with the rest of the piece, it's just that the audio was the only point I meant to reference.

I do hear what you're saying and agree with several points (and disagree with some others). There is room for discussion on this topic, and I'd always be interested in hearing more.

Posted by: G-A-Y | May 8, 2007 10:02:29 PM

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