Last week, Queerty.com, one of our favorite gay Web sites, chose Los
Angeles Police Department Chief William Bratton as its "2008 Homo Hero of the Year," and today the Los Angeles Times picked up the story -- this city's paper of record loves to hand out kudos to the power establishment whenever it can. While Queerty makes a good case for the Bratton pick, which the L.A. Times happily notes to its readers, both Web site and newspaper fail to mention a gay rights issue that's been dogging the number one cop in Los Angeles for years.
After reading Queerty and the L.A. Times, Queer Town remembered the work of lesbian journalist and In magazine news editor Karen Ocamb, who has been following Bratton as he
drags his feet on the continual city funding of the LAPD's Explorer program, a youth outreach project with ties to the anti-gay organization Boy Scouts of America.
"I've been reporting on this story for years," Ocamb writes in an email to Queer Town, "since (openly gay) attorney Dean Hansell sat on the Police Commission. He held hearings that showed a direct link between the Boy Scouts of America--which the U.S. Supreme Court said is a private religious institution that has a right to be anti-gay--and the Explorer program used by the LAPD. The City Attorney has made the connection--and noted that the city has a law prohibiting the city or any of its agencies from doing business with organizations or companies that have discriminatory policies. And yet, the Police Commission and the LAPD continue to find excuses for continuing the Explorer program. If this involved any other minority, that policy would have ended or been changed in a heartbeat. But as we continue to see--it's still OK to discriminate against gay people."
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Indeed. To make matters worse, the public relations flaks at the LAPD have posted the "Homo Hero" story on their blog. In some ways, that's a good thing--the LAPD is officially recognizing the gays. But in others, not so good--it starts to feed a myth through different media outlets that Bratton is some kind of new gay icon, despite the LAPD's continued affiliation with the Boy Scouts of America, which may actually be illegal according to city law.
The gay community has always had a problem with being easily placated: A straight politician or police chief shows up at a Gay Pride Parade, and he's instantly annointed as one of us...even though one of his policies, like the Explorer program, benefits an organization that discriminates against gays.
The Prop. 8 defeat has changed that way of thinking somewhat--witness the lingering outrage over Barack Obama's pick of evangelical minister and "Yes on 8" supporter Rick Warren to lead the invocation at the presidential inauguration--but it's still one of those bad habits we can't entirely shake. Since we're at the start of a new year, it seems to be the perfect time to ditch Mr. Nice Gay for good.
Contact Patrick Range McDonald at firstname.lastname@example.org.