by E.C. Fish on August 10, 1995

Responding to protests generated by the paper’s Aug. 3 coverage of a gay couple forced to leave Solon due to continual harassment, Iowa City Press-Citizen Managing Editor Dan Hogan “thought it would be good to attempt to explain the paper’s rationale in publishing stories that involve gays and lesbians.” While his Aug. 5 column “Covering gay issues is paper’s responsibility” does so adequately, if a bit fatuously, it also provides a rationale for, and grossly panders to, precisely the sort of attitudes that led to the Solon incidents in the first place. Rather than simply facing his critics, Hogan attempts to appease them. In the attempt, he lays down some of the most startling and insidious anti-gay rhetoric I’ve ever seen in a newspaper.

In answering those who called him “wondering angrily why ‘that stuff’ even needs to be brought up,” Hogan tries to make the distinction between “people who have been raised to disapprove of homosexual behavior,” who “don’t want to be hateful” but “simply have different values,” and the genuinely homophobic. The distinction is, if not outrightly false, entirely moot. Those who wish gays and lesbians excluded from their daily paper would in all likelihood also like to see them excluded from their workplaces, their neighborhoods, and their society as a whole. Whether their anger is inspired by hatred or mere “disapproval” is completely irrelevant– those people do not like gays and lesbians and are willing to act on that dislike. The line between calling the paper to protest the inclusion of “those people” in its coverage and harassing “those people” until they leave the community is both unbroken and short.

Hogan’s most startling assertion has to do with what he claims is bigotry on the part of the gay and lesbian community. “When gays and lesbians react angrily to people who don’t value their lifestyle,” he asserts, “it is they who refuse another person’s differences.” While I can’t speak for the gay and lesbian community, I think the anger and refusal Hogan perceives is both understandable and entirely justified. It is anger at the moral effrontery of those who presume to comment on, much less “approve” or “condone” the private choices made by their fellow citizens. It is a refusal to accept denigration at the hands of those people. It is, most importantly, anger at the threat these “different values” pose to their ability to live a free and equal life in this society.

In this column, Hogan has attempted to rationalize attitudes that are both irrational and anti-social. In doing so, he has contributed to an environment that is not merely, as Hogan would have it, “uncomfortable” for gays, but one that is outrightly dangerous and threatening to them. This represents both a shameful abuse of the power of his position and an abrogation of his responsibility to this community, both straight and gay.

This piece originally appeared in the Iowa City weekly ICON.

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