Reiter's Assertions on Gays Wrong


I would like to take issue with some of the statements made by Jendi B. Reiter in her column "Noble Principles, Misguided Protests" (February 16 Crimson). First is the assertion that we should accept (or at least sympathize with) the anti-gay policies of the Boy Scouts, the U.S. armed forces and the Ancient Order of Hibernians simply because these groups have "reasons for their opposition to homosexuals."

So, too, does the Ku Klux Klan, an organization that Reiter calls "an obvious villain" and does not defend for its views. In fact, the Klan's "reasons" is remarkably similar to the one given by the Hibernians: Biblical condemnation (which remarkably is not so "clear" as Reiter claims) of homosexuality. Most groups said individuals have "reasons" for their views: racial discrimination in the past was often justified because of a belief in the inferiority of non-white peoples, religious arguments against the mixing of races or simply a desire to be free from associating with "that type" of person, a claim suspiciously like the argument Reiter uses for the anti-gay policies of the Boy Scouts and the armed forces.

The argument that gay men will cause "tension" in all-male organizations overlooks the face that there have always been gay men--and boys--in the Boy Scouts, and gay, lesbian and bisexual people in the armed forces.

Second is the claim that "boycotts express the native belief that refusal to be tainted by association with offending groups will have a salutary an effect on the community as it will on one's own character," Nonsense Boycotts are about economic and political power, and they are an attempt to change the policies of the group in question, not simply avoid dirtying one's own hands. One can debate the merits of such actions, but let's be clear about what their purpose is.

It was arguably the boycott or Arizona, for its refusal to accept Martin Luther King day as a national holiday, that caused a reversal in that state's policy. The boycott and resulting isolation of South Africa for its abhorrent racial policies contributed to that country's unwillingness to begin to overturn apartheid. It is certainly true that boycotts may hurt some people not responsible for the bad policy in the first place, and for that reason some may not wish to participate in them.


It is interesting to note, however, that many Black leaders in South Africa called for sanctions on the grounds that sanctions that would hurt Black people in the short run would contribute to the overall betterment of society, and thus improve the lives of Black people in the long run. Many lesbian, gay and bisexual people (or those innocent of prejudice), hurt in the short run by the Colorado boycott, nevertheless support it. It is precisely this economic hurt that may be able to impel Colorado, or the Boy Scouts, to change their policies. Those who believe in the "reasons" for the discrimination practiced by these groups are welcome to spend their money as they will. As to whether Yale (or its student-run public service group) should be allowed to prohibit Boy Scouts from meeting in its space, the logic is presented backwards. The Boy Scouts have no inherent right to meet in that particular space; the decision that is made is whether or not to permit them to meet.

Institutions, or parts of institutions, make the same types of decisions that individuals make, and must evolve criteria for evaluating the "reasons" given by discriminatory organizations. If public service groups at Yale do not want to permit an organization that discriminated for objectionable "reasons" to use their resources, that is their political right. Beth DeSombre   GSAS, Government Department