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Thayer speaks about gay, lesbian rights

Maddie Hanna | Thursday, November 18, 2004

Andy Thayer, founder of the Chicago Anti-Bashing Network, spoke about inequality and discrimination directed at gays and lesbians members of the South Bend community Wednesday night at the Notre Dame Center for Social Concerns.

“If we’re going to combat the problem of anti-gay violence, we need to go to the root of the problem. The question is, what gives rise to this hatred of gay people?” Thayer asked.

In answering that question, Thayer blamed the government.

“If the government says it’s okay to dehumanize humans, it sends a message to society at large,” he said. “The fact of the matter is, when the government says, ‘We’re going to call out this whole class of people, who don’t have the same rights as other folks’ – that dehumanizes you, makes you a target.”

Thayer said that the loss of constitutional rights for gays would endanger the rights of all Americans.

“You allow the far right in this country to pick on, to vilify any group of Americans – you allow them to get away with that, and it sets a horrible precedent for other people,” Thayer said.

Switching to the topic of gay marriage, Thayer said that 1,138 federal rights are obtained by marriage. They include access to pension and Social Security survivors’ benefits, immigration rights, medical care, and the ability to adopt children, among many others.

“Many gay and lesbian couples are forced to immigrate from this country because they can’t get their partner naturalized,” Thayer said.

Recalling one woman’s complaint about the immigration laws, Thayer said, “She told me, ‘I can bring my dog into this country, but I can’t bring my wife.'”

Thayer said that 52 percent of heterosexual couples are currently raising kids. However, what many people don’t know is that a full 33 percent of gay couples and 42 percent of lesbian couples are also bringing up children, Thayer said.

“Marriage is a survival issue for many people in the gay and lesbian community,” Thayer said. “The issue here is civil marriage. The government, which all of us pay taxes to – is it going to treat us as human beings?”

Thayer also referring to the ability of gays to marry in Canada and the Netherlands.

“There are truly equal marriage rights, and you can’t say the sky is falling in [because of them],” he said. “Maybe the Netherlands [has] something up on the U.S. The U.S. is a world leader in family dysfunction.”

Thayer also talked about former Speaker of the House Next Gingrich’s criticism of the gay community.

“Those who vilify us are some of the best destroyers of the family. For example, take Newt Gingrich,” he said.

Pointing out Gingrich’s flawed history as a family man, Thayer referred to the former Speaker of the House’s multiple divorces.

“They [critics of gay marriage] can never seem to map it out how our marriages affect theirs. They must be truly insecure in their own marriages,” he said.

Thayer criticized former presidential candidate John Kerry and the Democrats for not taking a clear stand on gay rights in this month’s election.

“Civil rights and equality is like a light switch – it’s either on or off. Equality or discrimination?” he said.

Thayer also said that gays and lesbians should not settle for civil unions, but stand up for themselves.

“Things can change in some of the worst circumstances if people are willing to get out into the streets and work for it. This is why we do what we do,” Thayer said.