Papers around the country are picking up an AP article by Ling Liu in which heterosexuals complain about mistreatment in Provincetown, Mass., a gay resort town on Cape Cod. The list of abuses consists of:

1. One gay man accused a straight woman in a grocery store of being a “bigot” because she signed a petition to take marriage rights away from gay people.

2. A straight woman who had signed the anti-gay petition found dog manure by her car and claimed that a gay person put it there (this appears to be an unsupported assumption).

3. A printed list of petition signers (available online) was found on a windshield, presumably by a signer.

4. Some tourists complained of being called “breeders”.

The residents of Provincetown consider this to be a serious matter and held a meeting to discuss ways to live together civilly. The community, including the only person identifiably gay in the article, all condemned the rude behavior.

I believe that persons should not be harassed or maligned because of their sexual orientation. I believe that terms such as “breeder” are offensive because they go the very core of a one’s identity and condemn them for something that is an intrinsic immutable aspect of their person. This is hurtful and wrong.

It is the appropriate response of a community to identify those members who are being hurt by the callous name-calling of others and discuss ways to live in harmony. And the police chief and town manager did exactly that.

Similar to Provincetown’s experience, schoolyards across the nation are places where derogatory comments fly about sexual orientation. “That’s so gay” and “you’re a fag” are part of the daily vernacular on most campuses. And these glibly shouted insults are hurtful and destructive in the same way that “breeders” is.

Some communities are starting to recognize the pain – and sometimes death – that results from their inaction and callous disregard and are starting to take steps to create an environment in which all students can learn in peace. This is the right and appropriate response and it is hard to imagine that anyone would oppose these efforts.

But some do. Some groups and individuals do not wish to discourage abuse against gay children. They argue that any effort to stop the harassment and abuse of gay kids is an “endorsement of homosexuality”.

The leader in the efforts to keep anti-gay abuse in the schools is PFOX, a group claiming to represent the parents of ex-gays (although there do not appear to be any parents of ex-gays that are actually members). They lobby school boards and oppose all efforts to identify bullying against gays or to address this specific problem.

I commend the citizens of Provincetown, both gay and straight, that seek ways to live in civility and harmony. I commend the school administrations that seek the same for their schools.

But I condemn those who use hateful words to attack others because of their sexual orientation, be it “breeders” in Provincetown or “faggot” on a schoolyard. And I especially condemn those such as PFOX who seek to excuse or justify cruelty and who fight against those who seek peace and harmony.

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