Confronting the Pride Divide

Blood, Sweat, and Fed Up Queers at the Log Cabin Republican Conference

Corroborating the allegation that protesters had initiated the violence, a security guard who asked not to be named said: "They bum rushed us. They were carrying chains." Protesters intended to use the chains to lash themselves to hotel furniture.

However, one witness, LGNY journalist Ann Northrop, who was standing outside the hotel when the violence was at its height, claims to have seen a security guard choking a protester while screaming "motherfucker."

At a press conference held on Sunday morning, Clarence Patton, a representative of the Anti-Violence Project, a counseling and advocacy service for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, and HIV-positive victims of violent crime, voiced his concerns, but he did so, interestingly enough, without acknowledging FUQ's role in provoking the brawl. "The questions we'd like answered are whether these people were harmed simply because they were peacefully demonstrating or if it was escalated because they were in fact lesbians and gay men," he said.

United they stood: Brian Bond, Urvashi Vaid, and Steve May at the Roosevelt Hotel
photo: Michael Sofronski
United they stood: Brian Bond, Urvashi Vaid, and Steve May at the Roosevelt Hotel

By the end of the evening, police had arrested five protesters, including Korn, but as of press time, they had yet to arrest anyone from the hotel staff, even though the news channels have repeatedly aired footage of a hotel employee punching Korn in the face and her bleeding on the ground afterward. The hotel has declined to comment on the incident, but the NYPD have said that they will accept a complaint against the hotel if one is filed. Still, FUQ members see this as too little too late (one protester said she tried to file a complaint on the spot Saturday night but the police were not cooperating), and they see the NYPD's failure to protect the protesters or to arrest hotel staffers as just another example of what they deem the NYPD's discriminatory policies toward minority groups.

At an impromptu press conference held late Saturday night, FUQ spokeswoman Sue King defended her group, saying that she and her fellow protesters had shown up at the Roosevelt to make it clear that not all gays and lesbians support Giuliani or Log Cabin's endorsement of him in New York's 2000 Senate race. "Giuliani is not a friend of gays and lesbians," said King.

But, in response, Rich Tafel insisted that the gay far left is spreading a myth that the mayor is antigay. By way of evidence, Tafel pointed to legislation the mayor wrote and passed in 1997 that extended domestic partner benefits to lesbians and gays. Tafel called it "the most sweeping domestic partnership legislation that has been passed in the entire nation by anyone, Republican or Democrat."

Giuliani also marched in June's Gay Pride parade, where he was booed and heckled, ostensibly for breaking into the parade and disrupting a minority contingent. Given the mayor's already strained relationship with the African American community after the Abner Louima and Amadou Diallo tragedies, it's not entirely surprising that minority groups disdained Giuliani's efforts to appear at Gay Pride and, in their view, make a political bid out of it. Simply because he is a Republican, it's also not surprising that Giuliani has been unpopular among left-wing gay and lesbian groups.

But the Republican stance on gays has softened remarkably in the last month, what with George W. Bush declaring in early August that he would have no qualms about hiring homosexuals. In the same vein, Elizabeth Dole— whose husband curtly rejected a Log Cabin contribution to his presidential campaign in 1996— said that she would gladly accept money from a gay Republican group. The staid senator John McCain even went so far as to say that he could imagine there being a gay president someday.

Back in May, gay Republicans were in the news again when a public debate was sparked by a controversial piece written by Carol Lloyd that appeared in the online magazine Salon, questioning whether there was any truth to the rumor that Abraham Lincoln was gay. The rumor surfaced in a speech that writer-activist Larry Kramer gave last February in which he quoted the diaries and letters of Lincoln's longtime pal Joshua Speed: "He often kisses me when I tease him, often to shut me up. He would grab me up by his long arms and hug and hug. Yes, our Abe is like a schoolgirl."

In light of recent publicity, then, Mayor Giuliani's appearance at the Log Cabin convention may well have been only the latest, if perhaps the most auspicious, sign in a series of signs that Republicans are courting the gay vote. But early in his speech Saturday night, the mayor offered an unequivocal handshake to the gay and lesbian community. "It comes down to respect for human freedom," he said. "That is why it is not at all inconsistent for me to say that a Republican should support gay rights legislation. Republicans should basically say that our party is all about economic freedom, personal freedom, and therefore with regard to people's sexual orientation, with regard to the decisions they make about their lives, their personal lives, government should be as far removed from that as we possibly can."

He went on to praise the activities of the Log Cabin Republicans specifically. "Your presence in the Republican Party, in a very, very important philosophical way, keeps pushing all of us toward the very highest and the very best mission of this party. I can't thank you enough for being willing to remain in a party in which, and this is an understatement, not everyone shares the views that I have."

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