Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Cartoon Provokes Threat in Michigan

This is the cartoon mentioned in the March 30, 1999 issue of The Advocate. (Page 16)

I drew the cartoon at left in response to news reports that Gary Bauer's homophobic Family Research Council is seeking to reverse the adoption of twins by Human Rights Campaign chair Elizabeth Birch and her her partner, Hilary Rosen. The cartoon, depicting the FRC in the role of a kidnapper, appeared in the February 18, 1999 issue of Michigan's Between the Lines. The day after that issue hit the streets, Between the Lines received an anonymous letter, hand-written on official Michigan House of Representatives stationery, threatening the newspaper's staff and persons attending the next Pride celebration.

The letter isn't alarming at the outset...the reader apparently interpreted the cartoon as insinuating that the FRC is a bunch of child molesters. This interpretation had not occurred to me; however, it is obvious in retrospect that, given the homophobic right's obsession with child molestation, this could be a logical conclusion for the FRC and its supporters to draw. Nearly every gay and lesbian person who has sought to be the adoptive or custodial parent of a child -- or to establish any kind of safe haven for lesbigay youth, for that matter -- has had to withstand scurrilous and unsupported accusations from the FRC and its ilk of being a potential child molester.

The writer criticizes the cartoon, the idea of including sexual orientation in hate crimes legislation, and some other tangential topics, all using language that you've undoubtedly already read in other letters to the editor and heard on talk radio/tv. Nothing new or out of the ordinary until two thirds of the way through the letter, when the writer says "Enough pleasantries," whereupon s/he threatens violence at the next Pride parade, and against newspaper staff members in particular.

Michigan's Triangle Foundation has issued a press release condemning the letter. The letter has been reported to the police, and I am happy to hear that they are treating this incident seriously. Friendly law-makers have introduced hate crimes legislation, partly in response to this incident. With any luck, there will be more positive outcome to this sorry episode than negative.

--March, 1999

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