It is appalling how many otherwise liberal people were willing to overlook O'Connor's lifelong work against basic civil rights for gay people because he was good on some otherissues. Had he worked against the rights of blacks or Jews with the same intensity, he would have been run out of town on a rail.

Eleanor Cooper
Coalition for Lesbian and Gay Rights

Nat Hentoff replies: Ms. Cooper assures us that O'Connor was an antigay bigot, a conclusion that removes any possibility that he may have been wrongheaded without being a bigot. Cardinal Joseph Bernardin did not support all gay rights laws, but was more flexible. The New York law was indeed first backed by Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Sullivan of Brooklyn. It should have been supported by O'Connor because unlike the previous Executive Order 50, it contained an exemption allowing religious organizations to decide whom they'd hire. As for the AIDS-designated center, he spoke to me often about it and was intensely committed to it. If O'Connor's position on the St. Patrick's Day Parade was immoral, so was the Supreme Court's decision on the same issue in the Boston St. Patrick's Day Parade. His threat to close church-run children's care centers was based on his conviction that a religious organization has a right to decide whom to hire. Agudath Israel cannot be mandated toemploy members of Jews for Jesus. I disagreed with O'Connor about same-sex marriages, as I did about his supporting the pope for recognizing ex-Nazi Kurt Waldheim as president of Austria. But O'Connor was no more a Nazi than a bigot.

Poly Graphic

Re Tristan Taormino's column entitled "Two's Too Tough" [May 30]: As a Mormon, I can tell you that Mormons don't currently practice polygamy—and haven't done so since 1890. Even then, it wasn't based on hatred, abuse, or torture. It was partly a result of murders of Mormon men by the federal and state governments and Protestant ministers. Men who could care for more women and children did so.

Next time, please make sure someone reads what Ms. Taormino writes for a sense of right and wrong before it's printed.

Brian Boyd
Morristown, Tennessee

Three's Company

Tristan Taormino's column about polyamory was one of the most succinct, upbeat, and insightful that I've read. Thanks for not trivializing the topic or making it only about sex.

Barry Northrop
Boulder, Colorado

The Color Purple

Thank you for Richard Goldstein's "Lazio to CBS: I'm No Pansy" [June 6]. I'm glad someone noticed Rick Lazio's antigay pansy comment. As I told my lover, "I can't believe he said that!" I was surprised that the media—including the gay media—basically ignored it.

Christopher Koppel
Washington, D.C.

Garden Variety

To use a George Bushism, I equate pansy with wimp: i.e., someone who is afraid to exert the strength of their own personality, a non-risk-taker, ultimately, a flower. Perhaps to the gay community, pansy means something else.With the many slurs and euphemisms forhomosexual, I'm amazed the gay community chooses to claim another.

Richard Paine
Island Park, New York

Richard Goldstein replies: If Mr. Paine goes to Webster's dictionary, he will find pansy defined as a derogatory term for homosexuals. It's no surprise to me that antigay epithets enter the language as general insults. That sort of cruelty ought to be confronted whenever it occurs.

Inside Story

"The Riot Academy" [May 30] by Jennifer Gonnerman was fabulous. As a television reporter, I've covered the mock riots at the West Virginia pen since its inception, and never have I read a piece that captured its essence so accurately. It brought tears to my eyes to read someone describe the action so vividly.

Mel Hopkins
Wheeling, West Virginia


I appreciate J. Hoberman's plugging High Times in his review of Grass ["Smoke and Mirrors," June 6], but I didn't appreciate his snide reference to our film awards show. It's called the Stonys, not the Dopeys.

Steve Bloom
Senior Editor, High Times
and Producer of the Stony Awards

Welfare Fraud

Elisabeth Franck and Miranda Leitsinger's article "System Failure" [May 23], charging favoritism by the city toward HS Systems and exposing a pattern of shoddy practices, inhumane conditions, and an assembly-line approach to screening disabled welfare recipients, was no surprise to those of us who have been fighting HS Systems for years and getting nowhere.

As far back as 1993, when I was on the City Council, I complained to HS Systems president Yvonne Jones and to the city about horrible conditions at HS Systems' facility on West 45th Street. This action resulted in promises of reform, most of which were not kept.

In spite of years of complaints by neighbors and welfare advocates, and substantiated charges of dangerous wrongdoing, the city continued to renew HS Systems' contract and defend its record. So close did this relationship seem that in late 1997—when I, along with Community Board 4, urged the city not to renew HS Systems' contract—we received extremely similar letters from HS Systems and the city Human Resources Administration commissioner defending HS Systems' record.

Meanwhile, HS Systems' staff of 15 doctors was seeing more than 700 people a day and performing 80,200 examinations per year. It is no wonder that challenges of determinations of fitness to work resulted in 40 to 50 percent of the decisions being overturned or withdrawn.

State Senator Thomas K. Duane


Due to an editing error, Hell's Kitchen Netactivist John Fisher was incorrectly quoted in "Fanning the Flames" (June 6) as saying that the neighborhood e-zine MorningsideHeights.com is "mostly listings of stores on the streets." Fisher was referring to www.nysite.com

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