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News - July 1996

Groups respond to Southern Baptist Convention's Disney boycott threat

The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) has compiled statements from some of the nation's leading lesbian and gay and civil rights groups on the Southern Baptist Convention's June 12 vote to boycott Walt Disney theme parks, movies and products. The boycott resolution targets Disney primarily for extending benefits to domestic partners of its gay and lesbian employees.

Matt Coles, Director of the Lesbian & Gay Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU): "All Americans should support Disney's decision to keep its park open to everyone, and to give its employees equal pay for equal work. Those two things are in the finest tradition of the civil rights movements of the last fifty years. There is nothing anti-family or anti-religious in treating people equally and respectfully. The censure is a goofy idea."

As part of the nation's oldest civil liberties organization, the ACLU's Lesbian & Gay Rights Project fights for equal rights in the courts, the legislatures, and the court of public opinion.

William Waybourn, Managing Director, Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) said : "The Southern Baptist attack on Walt Disney is an attack on the very fabric of American culture, and is, by all means, very unchristian-so much for 'love thy neighbor.' Disney should be recognized and applauded for its stance on domestic partnerships and for treating their employees with dignity and respect. The Southern Baptist threat is a trumped-up cry for media attention. By setting off this false alarm, they have only succeeded in advocating censorship, which Americans detest. The American public should continue to enjoy Disney's wealth of creativity and expressions of diversity, as they have for decades."

GLAAD is the nation's Lesbian and Gay News Bureau and the only national lesbian and gay multimedia watchdog organization. GLAAD promotes fair, accurate, and inclusive representation as a means of challenging discrimination based on sexual orientation or identity.

Richard Jennings, Executive Director, Hollywood Supports said : "Every major studio in the entertainment industry has adopted domestic partner benefits for their gay and lesbian employees, sending a clear message that gay and lesbian employees are a vital part of the entertainment family. This particular religious group has the right to define family more narrowly for themselves, and to ostracize their gay and lesbian members if they so choose, but it is most inappropriate and contrary to American values for them to try to impose their narrow standards on American business or society at large."

Hollywood Supports is the clearinghouse for the entertainment industry on AIDS and sexual orientation workplace issues.

Beatrice Dohrn, Legal Director, Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund said : "This attack on Disney shows how obsessed the radical right is with punishing lesbians and gay men. Here, you have a company voluntarily granting family health insurance to gay employees, a benefit that non-gay workers already get. What could be wrong with that? What's wrong is that the radical right has a policy that, if you treat lesbians and gay men decently, it will retaliate. Apparently, the radical right's attempt to choke off America's mere discussion of same-sex marriage is not enough. Now, far-right extremists are proving our point-without full legal protections, lesbians and gay men are vulnerable to losing even basic, employer-provided health coverage. We're not supposed to get married, and now I guess we're not supposed to even have health insurance."

Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund is a national organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men and people with HIV/AIDS.

Mandy Carter, Board Member, The National Black Gay and Lesbian Leadership Forum said: "The Southern Baptists claim that Disney has strayed from family values, but we are family too. Would they boycott Disney over benefits given to black people? Discrimination is discrimination and we've been there and done that."

The National Black Gay and Lesbian Leadership Forum monitors and responds to issues of concern to the black lesbigaytrans community.

Melinda Paras, Executive Director, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force said: "We are disappointed in the Southern Baptist's decision to promote fear and vilification of gay men and lesbians. Disney's actions are in keeping with the best traditions of family values by supporting the real lives of its employees. Our families deserve equitable and fair treatment in the workplace and we are glad American employers are coming to this realization as well."

NGLTF is the nation's oldest national gay and lesbian civil rights organization.

Rosemary Dempsey, Vice President-Action, National Organization for Women (NOW) said: "It's a serious form of hypocrisy when so-called religious people idealize a fairy-tale version of families, but want to close the Magic Kingdom to real-life lesbian and gay families. NOW applauds Walt Disney and the other 500 major corporations who courageously support all families."

NOW's mission is to bring women into full participation with the mainstream of American society now, exercising all privileges and responsibilities thereof in truly equal partnership with men.

Nancy McDonald, Vice President of PFLAG, (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) said: "We are bitterly disappointed that the Southern Baptist Convention has voted to censure the Walt Disney Company for its open and inclusive employment policies, by labeling those policies as 'anti-family.' What is anti-family, however, is an organized faith community that seeks to divide the very families it proposes to protect. We applaud the Walt Disney Company's courage in adopting pro-family employment policies by offering health benefits to same-sex spouses of company employees. PFLAG also applauds the Walt Disney Company's display of fairness in refusing to give in to pressure to discriminate against certain populations of our society based on bigotry, hatred and fear. We hope that leaders of other faith communities will join together to commend and patronize the Walt Disney Company for its continuing support of family values, in all its diversity."

PFLAG promotes the health and well-being of gay, lesbian and bisexual persons, their families and friends.


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