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Restricting some puts us all at risk

Re: Gay rights & civil rights, Jan. 18.

Eric Deggans has done a tremendous job reporting on the highly emotional issue of gay rights in the overall context of the broader civil rights movement. It is not surprising, given the widespread involvement of clergy and laypeople in the broader movement of the 1950s and 1960s, that these same people are concerned about the gay rights movement given their religious views on the subject.

I found the Rev. Walter Fauntroy's comments particularly enlightening. Fauntroy finds homosexuality an "abomination." As a former coordinator of the 1963 March on Washington, the Rev. Fauntroy would be well aware that one of the other major figures of that march was the late Bayard Rustin, who was both black and gay. I wonder whether the Rev. Fauntroy was similarly forthright in discussing this "abomination" with Mr. Rustin.

Gay people are not the only group of persons who have drawn inspiration from the broader civil rights movement. As a longtime part of the civil rights movement for persons with disabilities, I have drawn similar inspiration from earlier movements. It is true, as was noted in the article, that there are differences in the features of such movements. But isn't it just a bit ironic that those who have won hard-fought civil rights battles are just a bit reluctant to see similar tactics used by others for whom "keeping their eyes on the prize" is just as relevant?

No, gay people aren't expected to use different bathrooms, different water fountains, or sit at "gay only" lunch counters. Neither are persons with disabilities, many of whom cannot get into the bathroom, drink from any water fountain, or find sufficient turning radius around a lunch counter.

It is my opinion that if we call upon government to restrict the rights of one group of people, then we run the risk of similar restrictions against another group of persons because they are a minority, or because we as a people are incapable of being compassionate and understanding, or because we find something to be an "abomination."

Religious groups, racial groups, ethnic groups, persons with disabilities, gay and transgendered people, have all suffered from oppression throughout history. Isn't it about time we stop discrimination justified in the name of rectitude?

Mark S. Alper, New Port Richey

Equal citizens all

Re: Gay rights & civil rights.

I don't understand how the public can fail to see the parallels between the fight for civil rights for African-Americans and that of our gay and lesbian friends. The basis for the struggle is the concept that "All men are created equal." Granted the gay community is not banned from our lunch counters and they don't have separate restrooms, but they are denied the right to live, work and love as they choose. They also run the risk of being beaten and killed by homophobic thugs who believe that the Bible is on their side.

Allowing the African-American access to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness did not have a negative impact of the rights of whites, and allowing the gay community those rights will not have a negative impact on the straight community.

I fail to see how allowing gay people the right to marry somehow makes someone's marriage to the opposite sex less of a union.

Homosexuals are no different than African-Americans. Both have been victims of hatred and misunderstanding. They have been seen as inferior and unworthy of the rights that the white man has enjoyed since the birth of our country. This thinking has always been the basis for prejudice. We need to look at homosexuals the same way we should see every citizen of color, ethnic background, religion, and sex. We need to see them as Americans, as equal citizens with equal and protected rights. Only then can we say, "All men are created equal."

Phyllis S. Pepper, Pinellas Park

Afraid for our rights

Re: Secret policing, Jan. 17.

Thank you for your in-depth editorial on the excesses of the Bush administration's "war" on terrorism, and the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to allow the federal government to detain people without disclosing their identities. If the USA Patriot Act can be used to imprison supposed terrorists who are being held secretly and deny them their rights, what guarantee do I have as an American citizen that my rights will not be denied in the near future? This possibility is frightening for those of us who remember the Joseph McCarthy inquisition and the lives that were ruined as an act of patriotism.

Patricia Bates Smith, Clearwater

An excuse to bash Bush

Re: Behind the Bush protest, by Bill Maxwell, Jan. 18.

And the vendetta continues ...

I wonder if Bill Maxwell wrote a second article disparaging President Bush in case he didn't lay a wreath at the grave site of Martin Luther King Jr. He again accuses President Bush and the Republicans of ignoring African-American issues, yet when African-Americans are surveyed on policy issues they tend to agree more with Republican ideas over Democrat ideas (i.e. school vouchers).

Maxwell claims President Bush is using King's legacy as a photo-op while he is using King's legacy as another excuse to bash Bush.

Cliff Taylor, New Port Richey

Give some specifics

Re: Behind the Bush protest.

Maxwell writes that Bush and "other Republicans like him" consistently oppose legislation that blacks see as benefiting them. Later in his column, he asks us to remember that during the 2000 election, only 8 percent of blacks voted for President Bush.

If it were true that Bush and other Republicans opposed legislation benefiting blacks, Maxwell should cite specific instances. His style is to state his opinions as fact and then neglect to support them.

If Republicans do not enthusiastically support "legislation that blacks see as benefiting them," Maxwell might take a look at the fact that only 8 percent of blacks voted for Bush and Republican candidates. Could there possibly be a correlation? It's sort of like being at the track. If you back the wrong horse, you can't go up to the window and expect to cash a ticket.

Mike Lyons, Apollo Beach

Immature administration

Re: Behind the Bush protest.

Bill Maxwell's article describes what many of us see when we interact with the black community regarding politics: a simmering anger against this administration for the many reasons Maxwell outlined. Unfortunately for the African-American community and anyone else who has a legitimate disagreement or reason to be upset with this administration, Bush and his team always react to criticism and dissent the same way: They lash out and retaliate like spoiled children or other similar unevolved or immature creatures.

The black community has reason to be unhappy with this administration, and an administration with a healthy attitude and a mature president would do something positive about it. Sadly for all of us, this administration lacks both.

Steven Leser, St. Petersburg

Kerry's the real deal

As a vigilant supporter of John Kerry, I am extremely happy that he took first place in the Iowa caucuses.

I like all of the Democratic candidates, but it is my contention that Kerry is the best man for the job of president of the United States. Kerry has foreign policy experience, he is a decorated veteran, he has 20 years in the Senate, and most of all, he is the real deal. I can't wait to see a man who "knows something about aircraft carriers . . . for real" debate a man who just prances around one in a flight suit, pretending to be a hero.

Further, the Iowa caucuses have illuminated something that a lot of people were doubting: It is still, really, about the economy, stupid _ and the health care crisis and education. It is not so much about the war and who voted for and against it.

Alexis Knapp Ramer, St. Petersburg

Stick with the teacher

There was much truth to E.J. Dionne's column, The Democrats have set their style . . . (Jan. 21). I am one of those Democrats who yearned for "leaders who stopped looking over their shoulders and checking Bush's popularity ratings." Sens. John Kerry and John Edwards observed voters' reactions to Howard Dean's messages for months before they finally found the courage to confront George Bush's failed policies on the economy, health care, jobs and, yes, the war. Dr. Dean had been challenging all of those positions from the start.

The question now is, do we follow the guy who led the charge out of the foxhole, or the ones who waited for the smoke to clear? This is, after all, about leadership. I don't believe we can can afford the paralysis that kept the others mute for so long.

Dionne refers to the other candidates as "teachable." I'd much rather stick with the teacher.

Bonnie Agan, St. Petersburg