- The Washington Times - Friday, June 13, 2003

Gay Pride Month isn’t what it used to be.

Observed as a near holiday by federal agencies during the Clinton era, its yearly observances are becoming an endangered species.

The latest move against “gay pride” celebrations at taxpayer expense has been by the Justice Department, which has in the last week alternately canceled then permitted an after-hours event in its Great Hall. However, the June 20 event — an awards ceremony for two lawyers who had argued cases favorable to homosexual rights — must be paid for by the employees themselves.

Then late Wednesday, the FBI canceled its invitation to have Elizabeth Birch, director of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), a homosexual advocacy group, speak at FBI headquarters June 23. Spokesman Bill Carter said Miss Birch’s speech was never officially confirmed.

Despite repeated requests from homosexual advocates, the White House has refused to declare June “gay pride” month. The Clinton administration did so in 1998, 1999 and 2000.

The Department of Commerce ended any official sponsorship of Gay Lesbian and Bisexual Employees (GLOBE) activities last year, and the Patent and Trademark Office rescinded its sponsorship a few weeks ago.

The Departments of Labor, and Housing and Urban Development also took a pass on organizing any events this year.

“It has boiled down to whether there’s a Democrat or a Republican in the White House,” said Maryl Kerley, HUD president of the Gay Lesbian and Bisexual Employees. GLOBE includes 5,000 to 10,000 federal employees nationwide. Its Web site, www.fedglobe.org, lists only two federal agencies — the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration — that have proclaimed this June as “Gay Pride Month.”

The canceled-then-restored reception at the Justice Department has gotten the most press, resulting in two groups, the HRC and the Log Cabin Republicans, offering to kick in the $1,000 to $3,000 the event will cost.

But GLOBE’s privileged position at the Justice Department is about to end, said Justice spokesman Mike Corallo.

“We looked at who we sponsored for the past two years, and the only group was DOJ Pride,” he said. “This year, we decided against it. It just wasn’t fair to have us funding them and not others.”

GLOBE is simply an employee association, he said. “Such organizations have nothing to do with our primary function, which is law enforcement.

Other office groups foot their own bills.”

Allison Nichol, vice president of the Justice GLOBE unit, says her group, which numbers less than 100, doesn’t even have $500 in its treasury.

“We certainly welcome the partial reversal in allowing us to use the Great Hall [at agency headquarters],” she said, “but we’d really welcome a complete reversal and think it’s incredible we have to pay for out-of-pocket expenses other groups don’t have to pay.”

Patrick Guerriero, executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans, pointed out that the Justice Department made no fuss about paying for last year’s “gay pride” event, which Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson attended, he said.

“If this is a play to the radical right, it doesn’t serve the Justice Department well, nor Attorney General John Ashcroft nor his employees,” he said. “These agencies are creating tempests out of teapots. By canceling speeches and pulling sponsorships, they do a disservice to all involved.”

As for the FBI event, HRC spokesman David Smith said Miss Birch’s speech was in fact confirmed, on Tuesday.

“We were delighted to participate,” he said.

“I don’t understand the controversy here. These events aren’t gay-pride parades marching through the halls of the FBI.”

The move to displace GLOBE pleases social conservatives who have been tangling with the Bush administration about its perceived “flirting” with homosexual activists, including a meeting between a top Republican official and HRC.

Concerned Women for America has been petitioning the Bush administration to stop all funding of “gay pride” events at government agencies.

“Ashcroft is moving in the right direction,” spokesman Peter LaBarbera said. “I don’t understand why in the Bush administration, taxpayers are still funding gay pride. The government should get completely out of the gay-pride promotion business.”

Ken Connor, president of the Family Research Council, called the Justice Department’s position ambiguous.

“The fact is, and John Ashcroft would confirm it, the work of homosexuals is valued exactly the same as heterosexuals,” he said. “What the activists are obviously seeking is special recognition and privileges. The DOJ doesn’t set aside other months to affirm married people or mothers or singles.”

However, Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg, New Jersey Democrat, terms the affair “the politics of a cover-up,” and says he will investigate whether the Justice Department’s refusal to sponsor a GLOBE event is a civil rights violation.

“What we are seeing this year is the good, bad and the ugly,” said Kitti Durham, a GLOBE board member.

“It’s our feeling and belief,” she said, “that because the White House has not issued a proclamation, that we have Cabinet secretaries who are not supportive of the gay and lesbian community anyway to use that as an excuse to say, ‘Because the White House is not going to do it, I won’t.’”

Prior to the Clinton presidency, no federal agencies officially recognized Gay Pride Month.

During the Clinton administration, GLOBE had access to federal money, office space and in-house e-mail to publicize its events each June.

But when the Bush administration took over in 2001, the White House said there would be no more pronouncements because President Bush “does not believe in politicizing sexual orientation.”

Miss Durham wrote the White House a year ago to ask for a proclamation. But such proclamations, special assistant to the president Desiree Thompson responded, “are generally issued in connection with the passage of a congressional resolution or for traditional observances, such as Thanksgiving Day.”

But Miss Durham said that since January, “the administration has recognized months and days such as American Heart Month, American Red Cross Month, Irish American Heritage Month, Greek Independence Day, Panamerican Day and Week, Asian-American Pacific Heritage Month, Jewish Heritage Week and Religious Freedom Day. The White House is recognizing every interest group except the gay federal employees — and we work for him. We are Americans, too.

If Mr. Bush “is going to recognize everybody else, even other countries, the least he could do is recognize gay federal employees.”

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