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Pride and prejudice

During this week's Pride Festival, there are serious issues to consider

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It is remarkable that the Pride Parade and Festival, an annual event for the LGBT community and its straight allies to celebrate diversity and acceptance, is happening in a state whose five-term senator, Jesse Helms, once called gays and lesbians "sickening and intellectually dishonest."

As recently as 20 years ago, such a public celebration was dangerous, and even today the declaration of sexual orientation is fraught with risk—although only for the hated, not the hateful. In the 2007 legislative session, a House bill that would have expanded North Carolina's hate crimes law to include sexual orientation died in committee.

So in addition to this list of Pride festivities (PDF, 3 MB), two articles take on serious gay and lesbian issues in this week's edition. In "Inside Sen. Craig's closet,"Chapel Hill columnist Steven Petrow poignantly chronicles his years of self-denial, and compares his personal transformation and self-acceptance to that of Sen. Larry Craig, who despite mounting evidence to the contrary, continues to deny his sexual orientation.

Bob Geary's piece, "Raleigh council elections could put domestic partner benefits on the table," examines Raleigh city council candidates' stance on offering domestic partnership benefits to municipal employees. Although Durham, Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Orange County extend these benefits to their government workers, no city or town in Wake County—nor the county government—provides these benefits to gay and lesbian couples or to unmarried heterosexuals in committed relationships.

(Web Editor's Note: Plus, in this week's film section, read our interview with John Waters, in which the notorious filmmaker discusses Hairspray, the mainstreaming of gay culture and whether he'd work with Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan.)

More than a decade ago, when companies and universities began instituting domestic partnership polices, the misinformed holdouts claimed that HIV and AIDS would increase the cost of health and life insurance to cover gay men. That gruel-thin argument was further diluted by statistics showing heterosexuals represent the greatest increases in HIV infections. Heterosexuals, especially women, comprised one-third of new HIV infections and AIDS cases in 2005. However, it would be unconscionable and illegal to deny women (most of them with HIV are infected by their male partners) health insurance.

With the medical debate eliminated, that leaves discrimination as the only reason for denying this vital coverage to gay and lesbian workers. It's largely justified in biblical terms, with citations of Leviticus that call for the death of any man "who layeth with mankind." This is the same book that proclaims adulterers should be executed, consumption of shellfish is an abomination (much to the chagrin of the N.C. Shellfish Growers Association), and deems anyone who touches snails, mice or tortoises as unclean.

Fear of a conservative backlash has prompted Raleigh and the state of North Carolina to refuse to provide these benefits. Yet more than 7,000 employers and universities—including Duke and Elon, 10 states, and 175 city and county governments—do. Take a stand and join them.

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