Opinion: History and I Will Shake Off Carl Paladino's Anti-Gay Remarks

Filed under: In The News, Opinions, Gay Parenting, Weird But True, New In Pop Culture

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New York Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino made anti-gay comments in a speech on Oct. 10. Credit: Don Heupel/AP

When I read about New York gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino criticizing gay people, I smile a little.

Does that make me a bad father?

Perhaps. My daughter is gay. Truth to tell, so are some of my other loved ones. Perhaps I should be angry on their behalf.

"I just think my children and your children would be much better off and much more successful getting married and raising a family, and I don't want them brainwashed into thinking that homosexuality is an equally valid and successful option. It isn't," Paladino said in a speech to a conservative crowd at a synagogue Oct. 10.

Actually, boys and girls, you could do a lot worse than my daughter. She tested off the charts on almost every test they threw at her in public school. She went on to attend New York University on the scholarships she earned with her near-perfect grade point average.

She seems none the worse for wear for being gay. Neither does my cousin, a deputy district attorney in New York City. I think Paladino just lost his vote.

Still, observing the spectacle from almost a continent away, all I can do is smile and remember George C. Wallace. Anyone else old enough to remember him?

In November of 1962, the month and year I was born, Wallace was elected the governor of Alabama.

"Segregation now! Segregation tomorrow! Segregation forever!" he thundered during his inauguration speech three months later.

He punctuated his remarks in June of 1963 by standing in front of Foster Auditorium at the University of Alabama to keep black students Vivian Malone and James Hood from enrolling for classes.

The '60s were a tumultuous decade, but by the time they were over, so was the segregation Wallace vowed would last forever. I was still in high school when Wallace himself admitted it wasn't right to stand in front of that auditorium.

"I was wrong," Wallace told African-American leaders. "Those days are over and they ought to be over."

Times change. People change.

With an African-American president in the White House, we look back on the era of segregation and racism with astonishment. And well we should. How could we have ever debated such basic issues of equality? How could we have ever thought one race was "inferior" to another?

So it will be with homosexuality. One day (soon), gay people in every state will be allowed to legally marry. The tide of history -- and what is just and right -- are on their side.

Already, gay people have made seven-league strides in their battle for understanding. My daughter's budding sexual orientation was very well known in the stuffy, buttoned-down and very religious small town where she attended high school.

She never suffered any discrimination or hostility that she told me or her mother about. Indeed, she has practically nothing but lifelong friends and good memories of her life there. She suffered the usual amount of teenage angst, but, as far as I know, it wasn't exacerbated by those around her.

She was lucky. However, I doubt her luck would have held had she been born the year George C. Wallace was elected.

So I find it difficult to muster too much moral outrage against Paladino. A lot of people muster it by noting the text of his speech stated: "There is nothing to be proud of in being a dysfunctional homosexual."

Ugly words. That's why Paladino says he never wrote them or said them. Whatever the reason he omitted that sentence -- politics, conscience or time restraints -- we can't judge a man by what he didn't say. Only by what he did.

What he did say, I think, is completely ridiculous. Not that it matters. Whether Paladino wins or loses, his sentiments are destined for the dustbin of history.

Hopefully, like Wallace, even Paladino will come to recognize that.

Joe Parente is the ParentDish nom de plume, a pen name, used by our editorial team when we want to spill our dirty little secrets but still keep our dignity, and families, intact.

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.