Feminists Protest Justice Department's Ban on Lesbian and Gay Pride Events
June 9, 2003
by Leonard Tengco, Communications Intern
The Justice Department barred hundreds of employees from holding a lesbian and gay pride event at the department's headquarters last week, the first time a federal agency has ever forbidden a lesbian or gay group from holding an event on building premises.
DOJ Pride, a group of lesbian and gay Justice Department employees, was reportedly told in a memo earlier this month that it would not be allowed to hold a June 18 awards ceremony in the department's Great Hall because the White House had not formally recognized Gay Pride Month with a presidential proclamation. The Bush administrationwhich has issued a proclamation for Leif Erikson Day and Save Your Vision Week, among othershas refused to recognize Gay Pride Month.
As a U.S. senator, Attorney General John Ashcroft openly called homosexuality a "sin" and opposed legislation to protect lesbians and gays from discrimination, but pledged during his 2001 confirmation hearings that he would not tolerate discrimination against lesbians and gays.
Feminists and civil rights advocates condemned the department's decision and called on Ashcroft to reverse it. "The Justice Department's mandate is to safeguard our rightsnot to strip them away," said NOW President Kim Gandy, who noted that the decision violates the Justice Department's own anti-discrimination policies. "This ban should send a chilling message to everyone in the United States that their civil rights are in grave danger."
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