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spectr17
05-02-2002, 03:42 PM
At NRA gathering, speakers ridicule gays

Apr 29, 2002

Steve Friess, Gay.com / PlanetOut.com Network

SUMMARY: The NRA's annual convention in Reno, Nev., degenerated on Sunday into a session of gay-bashing, with one commentator calling talk show host Rosie O'Donnell as a "freak."

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The National Rifle Association's annual convention in Reno, Nev., degenerated on Sunday into a session of gay-bashing, with one commentator referring to anti-gun talk show host Rosie O'Donnell as a "freak" for her recent admission that she's a lesbian.

During a two-hour panel discussion attacking the media for distorting the views of gun-rights proponents, all but one speaker took an opportunity to slam gays and lesbians -- including O'Donnell -- in some manner.

O'Donnell, who had a much-publicized 1999 tiff with actor Tom Selleck about his NRA support, is "not cool, she's the freak," said conservative commentator Debbie Schlussel, a frequent guest on "The Howard Stern Show" and Fox News.

Schlussel also referred to straight actor Jude Law, who she said admitted to hesitating before handling a gun for one of his films, as a "girly man."

Conservative pollster Kellyanne Conway complained that the media skips over gun-rights stories for its various pet causes, including reporting on gays. Gay issues "are not important to Americans," Conway said.

The media, she added, has somehow forced changes in the public school curriculum that has resulted in an ignorant public. "They're so worried now about how many mommies Heather has that (the teacher) runs out of time" to teach basic civic lessons.

Grover Norquist, an NRA national board member and columnist for the American Spectator magazine, took a shot, too. He noted that it might not be as evident to the media that most Americans favor gun rights because "we don't have annual parades for gun owners so everyone can appreciate that gun ownership is an alternative lifestyle and look at how great we are." He also insisted that the liberals "don't want you (men) to date girls."

Each of these comments brought applause and laughter from a crowd composed mainly of middle-aged hunting and shooting enthusiasts, as well as from the panel moderator, former "Dallas" star Susan Howard.

The Reno convention drew about 40,000 attendees, among them at least one member of the gay gun-rights group, the Pink Pistols. Tom Boyer, 44, of San Francisco, left the convention before the panel discussion and said he would take up the reported comments with NRA brass, adding that he found a generally warm reception overall.

Boyer noted that, at a members' forum in Reno on Saturday, he introduced himself as a Pink Pistol and urged the NRA not to mix other social issues into the agenda of the gun-rights organization. Other members supported that comment, he said.

"I did have an NRA director come up and actually ask what he could do to help the Pink Pistols," Boyer said. "So there certainly is an outreach effort."