Outrage Grows Over NY GOP Governor Candidate’s Anti-Gay Remarks

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Tuesday October 12, 2010

A Tea Party-backed GOP candidate for Governor of New York shocked and dismayed not only GLBTs, but also people across the country concerned by the recent, and ongoing, rash of GLBT youth suicides.

Carl Paladino told an audience at a Brooklyn synagogue on Oct. 10 that children in school should not be "brainwashed into thinking that homosexuality is an equally valid and successful option--it isn't." The Republican gubernatorial candidate then went on television the following morning in an attempt a damage control, saying that he understood and sympathized with gays, who he said suffer discrimination. But he also said that his problem with gays stems from same-sex families wishing to enter into wedlock--a status that Paladino, who has a daughter out of wedlock, said should be reserved for heterosexuals only.

The timing of Paladino's remarks caused as much outrage, if not more, as their content, said the New York Times in an Oct. 12 op-ed. The article noted that only a week prior to the candidate's anti-gay remarks, three individuals--two teens and one 30-year-old man--were kidnapped, tortured, and sexually assaulted by a gang for being gay. The article also noted the recent suicide of Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi.

"Carl Paladino's bigoted remarks about gay people were bad enough by themselves," the op-ed stated. "But when you consider his timing, they were shockingly irresponsible." The article went on to say, "For Mr. Paladino to choose this moment to make his utterly gratuitous remarks suggests at the very least an extraordinary level of insensitivity." As for the candidate's statements regarding marriage, his "remarks were nothing but gay-bashing," the article continued.

An Oct. 11 article in the New York Times reported on Paladino's remarks condemning gay Pride parades and criticizing his opponent, Andrew Cuomo, for having attended Pride events with his children in tow. "I don't think it's proper for them to go there and watch a couple of grown men grind against each other," Paladino said. "I don't think that's proper. I think it's disgusting."

Oct. 11 was National Coming Out Day. The occasion coincided this year with Columbus Day, and for Paladino it was an occasion to march in a parade himself--New York's Columbus Day parade. The Times said that along the route, Paladino was greeted by Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York. Paladino had earlier sought to excuse his remarks by saying that they reflected his Catholic faith, and suggested that if Cuomo disagreed with him on the issue of gays, then Cuomo--also a Catholic--should "see a priest."

Also attending the Columbus Day parade was openly lesbian speaker of the New York City Council, Christine Quinn, who told the media that Paladino's comments of the previous day were "outrageous, demeaning, hateful and dangerous," the article reported.

Cuomo was also at the event, and he addressed his opponent's remarks, telling radio station WPIX, "I think the comments Paladino made were reckless and divisive. They were the worst cynical comments trying to pit people against each other. He's probably the last person I would take advice from on how to raise my daughters."

WPIX also sought comment from Paladino, who told the station's reporter, "Why don't you get a day job. Find something to do with yourself."

GLBT equality advocates responded forcefully to what they saw as the candidate's disparaging comments, including a remark that was included in the text of Paladino's speech but was crossed out and not spoken aloud to the audience on Oct. 10. The intact text includes a sentence saying, "There is nothing to be proud of in being a dysfunctional homosexual."

That characterization is also part of the Catholic Church's view regarding homosexuals. The church claims that GLBTs are "disordered" with respect to human relationships, and also brands as "inherently evil" any sexual expression of affection between individuals of the same gender.

The Pride Center of Western New York announced a rally for Oct. 12 to oppose Paladino's comments, reported Buffalo, New York, news station WGRZ that same day.

"We feel it's important that we just have a show of unity for both the straight and the gay community saying we don't feel this kind of language and behavior is appropriate particularly on the state wide level and particularly by a man who wants to represent the very, very diverse population we have here in New York State," said the Pride Center's Christopher Voltz.

The Human Rights Campaign also spoke out against Paladino's remarks. "By his own words, Carl Paladino has made himself the poster boy for the kind of divisive leadership that makes young LGBT people question their self-worth and gives license to those who use violence to advance their hate," the group's president, Joe Solmonese, said in an Oct. 11 press release. "Carl Paladino is either homophobic or stunningly tone deaf to the needs of the community--two qualities New Yorkers don't want in a Governor.

"It's disgusting to think that Carl Paladino's idea of celebrating the eve of National Coming Out Day is to tell young LGBT people that they're not equally valid," Solmonese went on. "There is nothing to be proud of in giving voice to the kind of divisiveness that so often leads to violence."

Religious Leader: Paladino's Comments 'Hurtful and Dangerous'

"In a time when anti-lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender violence has risen in New York City, Carl Paladino's comments are especially hurtful and dangerous," said Rev. Rebecca Voelkel of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force in an Oct. 11 news release. "They incite violence against people for being who they are. That they clothe themselves in religious language is even more disturbing.

"Preaching hate from our pulpits, in our politics, or to our pupils is simply unacceptable," Voelkel added. "It literally endangers lives. And the life and ministry of Jesus always calls us to stand against that which hates, hurts or destroys."

The board of affirming religious group Catholics for Equality issued a news release the same day, declaring, "Catholics for Equality calls on Catholics and people of good will in New York and throughout the United States to repudiate the anti-gay comments by Carl Paladino, the Catholic Republican gubernatorial candidate of New York.

"His comments do not represent Catholic social teaching nor the feelings of the majority of faithful American Catholics," the group's board continued. "Marist Institute for Public Opinion in Poughkeepsie showed that 51 percent of registered voters supported same-sex marriage while 42 percent opposed it. More recent polling shows us that American Catholics support LGBT equality, including the freedom to marry, more than any other Christian denomination.

"Catholics for Equality hopes that our bishops throughout New York will call to accountability Mr. Paladino for his words which violate the heart of Catholic teaching that gay persons should be treated with respect and dignity."

The news release went on to state, "Teaching LGBT youth that they are created in the image of God, with dignity and worth, deserving of equal freedom to live, work, serve, and love is not "brainwashing"--it is good parenting and compassionate counsel.

"Homosexuality is not, as Paladino asserts, an 'option.' He is not entitled to judge whether one's sexual orientation is 'valid' or any relationship 'successful.' With so many youth being driven to suicide, Catholics for Equality stands with the majority of U.S. Catholics, who favor of a pastoral approach to LGBT issues."

Openly gay New York State Sen. Thomas K. Duane also denounced Paladino's remarks, saying, "I want to set the record straight Carl: A person's sexual orientation or gender identity, whether it be lesbian, gay, bisexual, straight, and/or transgender is never dysfunctional." Duane went on to add, "It is dysfunctional that Mr. Paladino uses his millions to support a second family but he would deny choice to other women who, with the advice of their medical, spiritual and emotional support systems, would make different choices than the one made by his girlfriend, the mother of one of his children.

"It is dysfunctional that Mr. Paladino has spent the bulk of this campaign obsessing about Andrew Cuomo's sex life while declaring his own off limits," added Duane. "It is dysfunctional that in the wake of the tragic suicide of Tyler Clementi and other LGBT young people who were victims of homophobic harassment, Carl Paladino would tell a crowd in Williamsburg that LGBT people are dysfunctional.

"That he would he would incite homophobia in the wake of the horrifically brutal anti-gay gang assault in the Bronx--that is dysfunctional," Duane added. "It is a travesty that the Republicans have chosen a candidate for Governor who can only point out dysfunctions and not see the inherit strengths in all New Yorkers--a candidate who speaks of 'taking a baseball bat to Albany' when baseball bats have all too often been weapons in anti-LGBT and other hate crimes."

Other inconsistencies were pointed out by the New York Post's Fred Dicker, whom Paladino had threatened to "take out" when Dicker sought a quote from the candidate regarding Paladino's second family. "Paladino, who has insisted that a candidate's kids--including his own 10-year-old daughter out of wedlock--should be off limits in political contests, attacked Cuomo for taking his young girls to the city's gay parade last summer," noted the political reporter.

The Washington Post also excoriated Paladino in an Oct. 12 op-ed that took note of the sexual assaults by the New York gang and the crisis of gay youth suicides. "Where do bullies get their ammunition, the hurtful slurs that eat away at the self-esteem of those who are gay or lesbian? What makes someone feel it's okay to verbally and physically harass, maim or even kill?

"One source is politicians such as Mr. Paladino who continue to espouse their belief that being gay is an immoral or unnatural 'lifestyle' choice that can be changed at will. As long as such dehumanizing ignorance and intolerance go unchallenged, the horrors and suicides will continue."

Closer to home, Paladino's own campaign advisor was growing exasperated, reported the Daily Beast on Oct. 11. "Based on his anti-gay rant, any advice that I'm giving this guy is no longer having any effect," Roger Stone told the publication.

Others from Paladino's own party gave the candidate little support for his remarks. Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani called the comments "highly offensive," while fellow GOP contender for the governor's office Rick Lazio said Paladino's anti-gay remarks were "counterproductive and an embarrassment," reported Newsday on Oct. 12.

The Log Cabin Republicans had been considering giving Paladino their endorsement before the flap, but said that would most likely not happen now. Republican candidates Dan Donovan and Harry Wilson--one running for attorney general and the other for comptroller--also came out against Paladino, prompting the gubernatorial hopeful to blurt, "So what? I don't care. My remarks were very clear."

Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank gave Paladino a passing reference in a televised debate with Republican challenger Sean Bielat, an Oct. 12 story at Boston radio station WBUR's website reported. "That guy running in New York, I guess his name is Paladino," said the congressman, who is known for his wit. "Frankly, when I heard it at first, I thought it was Palomino, and only part of whom was talking."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.