Courting human rights
By ART MORRIS
The gay men and lesbians of Eugene, Oregon are the
latest to suffer the blow of the referendum. Question 51 on the ballot asked if the ordinance which
protected the rights of gay men and lesbians should
be repealed. The law gave protection in the areas
of employment, public accomodations, and housing.
It said that one's sexual orientation alone was not
a reasonable cause for exclusion or discrimination.
The ordinance was repealed by a 2-to-l vote.
Eugene ia the fourth area in less than a year to
subject gay men and lesbians and their rights to a
popularity contest. Dade County, Florida was the
first of the municipalities to allow the civil
rights of a minority group to be decided by the majority in • popular election. As you may remember.
Anita Bryant Green lent her name and energy to this
After a four month campaign of fear and hate by the
organization called "Save Our Children," that ordinance was repealed. The Dade County Coalition and
the Miami Victory Party both ran tremendous campaigns aimed at educating the public. But their
campaigns didn't prove strong enough to combat that
most unholy alliance of Southern Baptists and conservative Roman Catholics. The referendum passed
by a 2-to-l margin on June 7, 1977.
The call for referenda was spearheaded last summer
by various conservative, charismatic and fundamental
religious and right-wing groups. St. Paul is the
eity that was forced to hold the first referendum
after Dade County. The St. Paul Citizens for Human
Rights was formed to educate the people of the city
about the referendum and about gay people. The St.
Paul referendum passed by a 2-to-l margin in the April 25, 1978 election.
The referendum in Wichita, Kansas marked the greateat
defeat that we have had to face. The Homophile Alliance of Sedgwick County worked hard and long to educate the public; overall the ran an effective campaign. Unfortunately, they were dealing with one of
the most conservative areas of the country. Liquor-
by-the-drink is still a major area of controversy in
Kansas. On May 9, 1978 the voters of Wichita voted
5-to-l to repeal the ordinance that protected the
gay people of that city.
But it was the Eugene defeat that was the greatest
surprise of all of the referenda. Oregon is traditionally liberal, and Eugene ia an urban area with
strong overall support for the rights of lesbians
and gay men. Jerry Weller, co-chairperson of the
finance committee of the Eugene Citizens for Human
Rights, said "Civil rights have never been a matter
of popularity. No minority ever received civil
rights from a vote." Weller said that we have only
the courts to look to. The E.C.H.R. win be in court
to contest some of the tactics of VOICE, the conservative faction opposing the civil rights ordinance.
Although their appears to be no immediate relief,
groups from each of the cities are fighting in the
courts on grounds that the rights of a minority group
cannot be put to a popular vote—and that to do so
is a violation of the constitutional rights of all
At the question of the constitutionality of the various referenda, one is reminded of Martin Niemoeller,
a Protestant clergyman. He was imprisoned for speaking out against Hitler and survived a concentration
camp where 76,000 Jews and 15,000 children were slaughtered. He described how it happened: "...the Nazis
...came for the Communists, but I didn't speak up
because I wasn't a Communist; then they came for the
Jews, but I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.
The they came for the trade unionists, but I didn't
speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then
they came for the Catholics^ but I .didn't apeak out
because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me,
but there was no one left to speak for me."
What Pastor Niemoellor omitted is that first
the Nazis came for the homosexuals and other
"undesirables." But before that, they created
a climate in which the escalating persecutions -- the rounding up of the "undesirables" -- would be possible, while steadily
widening the devouring definition of that
(from Gay Sunshine, with permission)
In all, what the courts decide for Dade County. St.
Paul, Wichita and Eugene they will decide for the
whole country. The decision will initially affect
the gay men and lesbians of this country, but it
will ultimately affect everyone. The courts have
the powert will the work of Martin Luther King and
Susan B. Anthony go the way of the Dade County Coalition, the Eugene Citizens for Human Rights, the
St. Paul Citizens for Human Rights, and the Homophile
Alliance of Sedgwick County?
Seyforth laboratories, Inc.
WEIGHT REDUCTION & CONTROL
MUSCLE DEVELOPMENT 1
SKIN! FACIAL FITNESS
It can happen w
SAN ANTONIO, TX 78210
SPENCE JANUARY, distributor