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December 8, 2004

Frederick Needs Gays

Chris Charuhas

Last week some guy wrote a letter to the local daily paper about how he helped run a gay bar out of Frederick. If we let that happen, we're fools. We should make it easy for gay people to live here.

Some marketers say that gay people are wealthier, better-educated, and more talented than most people. That hasn't been proven, but then again, the gay haven of Shepherdstown, WV, is one of the most prosperous towns in that state. What is certain is that when a city drives out gay folks, it loses the contributions of rich, learned, skilled citizens who just happen to be gay.

When governments discriminate, their citizens lose. In the 1600s, France persecuted its Huguenots - industrious Protestants who made up much of its middle class. Many fled France and went to England and Holland. Guess whose economies started burgeoning around that time, while France's economy tanked?

It works the same way with states and cities. Virginia is now passing laws that discriminate against gay people. I say, "Keep at it, Virginia," because Virginia's loss can be our gain. We in Frederick can cherry-pick some of its most productive citizens simply by making sure they get the same rights as everyone else.

Some people don't think that's a good idea, but their arguments don't hold water.

Argument 1. God doesn't like it. This seems unlikely. Being gay is like being left-handed or black - it's how you're made. If He didn't like gays, it stands to reason that He wouldn't have made them. In Medieval Europe, being left-handed was considered the mark of the Devil. In 1800s America, many evangelicals believed that blacks were cursed by God. Religious prejudice against gays will eventually be seen as such, and Frederick should get ahead of the curve.

Argument 2. It makes me feel weird. Get over it. When I lived in Washington, DC, I danced the tango, and a transvestite came to many of the dances. "She" was six feet tall, built like a Ravens' linebacker, wore a Marilyn Monroe wig, and liked the way I led. So she would often ask me to dance. In the tango community, declining an invitation to dance is the height of rudeness, so I sucked it up and danced with her.

You know what? It wasn't bad. She was very light on her feet, and unfailingly pleasant. Later on I started a company with a gay partner. I spent a lot of time in the gay bars and restaurants in his neighborhood, and was always treated well. A few months ago I played rugby against a gay team, and other than the fact the gay ruggers brought better food, the difference between the teams was imperceptible. The more time you spend with gay folks, the more comfortable you feel around them.

Argument 3. They threaten family life. Wrong. Gays contribute to it. A recent research study conducted by the National Adoption Information Clearinghouse showed that adolescents with gay parents are no different than their counterparts with straight parents. "The qualities of teenagers' relationships with their parents are much better predictors of their overall well-being," noted a professor of pediatrics at Tufts School of Medicine. Translation: relationships matter most when raising kids. Being gay doesn't matter at all.

If a gay bar comes back to Frederick, we should defend it tooth and nail. Hard-core bigots, who tend to be more violent and less productive than your average Fredericktonian, will move elsewhere. Other citizens will begin to see that being gay is no big deal. And we'll benefit from the contributions of more gay citizens to our prosperity and culture.

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