HRCF PR 1/19/95: Gingrich: House Will Hold Anti-Gay Hearings

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Press Release: The Human Rights Campaign Fund

The Nation's Largest Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Political Group

To contact the Human Rights Campaign Fund, please call us at (202)628-4160, fax us at (202) 347-5323 or write to us at PO Box 1396 Washington, DC 20013. We cannot respond to E-Mail.

For Immediate Release
Thursday, January 19, 1995

Gingrich: House Will Hold Anti-Gay Hearings

In Break From Focus on Mainstream Agenda, Speaker Acknowledges Promise to Anti-Gay Extremist

Washington -- House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) told a lobbyist for the Human Rights Campaign Fund (HRCF) at a town meeting in Kennesaw, Ga., last weekend that the House will hold hearings sought by anti-gay extremist Lou Sheldon of the Traditional Values Coalition. Sheldon, who has gained notoriety for declaring "open warfare" on gay people, has advocated confining HIV-positive people in concentration camps.

Since the Nov. 8 elections, Sheldon has claimed in press reports that Gingrich promised to hold hearings on legislation that would target AIDS prevention programs, promote discrimination against gay youth, and seek to impose federal control over public schools. Gingrich's comments, in response to a question by HRCF Deputy Public Policy Director Cathy Woolard, who is from Georgia, marks the Speaker's first confirmation of Sheldon's claims.

"I do think at some point this spring or summer, if we can have a one day hearing on whether or not taxpayer money is being spent to promote things that are literally grotesque, that that's a legitimate request," Gingrich said.

Sheldon's Traditional Values Coalition is a radical right special interest group that promotes discrimination against lesbian and gay people and sponsors an affiliate called the National Task Force for the Preservation of the Heterosexual Ethic in America. In 1986 and 1988, Sheldon promoted anti-gay initiatives in California sponsored by far-right extremist Lyndon LaRouche to quarantine people with HIV infection, according to information provided by People For the American Way, which monitors right-wing activity. Voters rejected the initiatives. In a Nov. 26, 1989, article in the Los Angeles Times, Sheldon advocated confining people with AIDS in Cuban-style concentration camps referred to as "cities of refuge."

"Sheldon's only purpose is to dehumanize lesbian and gay people and promote discrimination. The American people have rejected this agenda time and again, most recently on November 8," said HRCF Executive Director Elizabeth Birch. "The Republican leadership is clearly coming under pressure from anti-gay extremists. The Speaker should reject this extremism and keep focused on issues important to mainstream America."

In the last Congress, Sheldon pushed legislation that would have cut off all federal funds to schools with impartial counseling or curricula addressing HIV/AIDS, anti-gay violence and teen suicide. The legislation was opposed by a broad coalition of educational organizations as an unprecedented intrusion by the federal government into local control over public schools. Civil rights organizations also deplored the attack on gay youth, who face violence and discrimination in schools.

"If the Speaker proceeds with these hearings, he should invite testimony from young people who have been attacked at school for being gay or lesbian," said Daniel Zingale, HRCF Public Policy Director. "He should be prepared to hear from the mother of a gay teenager who committed suicide because he had no one to turn to. He should listen to the story of an HIV-positive young person whose infection could have been prevented with accurate information about the spread of the disease. He should know that parents, teachers, mayors and governors will speak out against this unprecedented intrusion by the federal government into local control of public schools."

By sending a staff member to Gingrich's town meeting, HRCF became the first lesbian and gay political organization to gain information directly from the Speaker since November 8. The organization has requested a meeting with the Speaker's staff and hopes to educate the Speaker about the widespread problem of anti-gay discrimination. HRCF is also alerting supportive organizations, mobilizing constituents, and organizing a grassroots response to the prospect of anti-gay hearings.

"We didn't wait in line along with every other Washington lobbyist trying to see Newt Gingrich," Woolard said. "By approaching him back home in Georgia, I think we had a more positive and open discussion. We now have an opportunity to challenge Sheldon's credibility and see that the lesbian and gay community has input into any hearings that would attempt to distort the truth."

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