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December 07, 1978 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 1978-12-07

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Tage 4-Thursday, December 7, 1978-The Michigan Daily

420 Maynard St., Ann Arbor, MI 48109
Eighty-Nine Years ofEditoridlFreedom

The meaning of

gay rights

Vol. LXXXIX, No.75

News Phone: 764-0552

Edited and managed by students at the University of Michigan

Court slights Constitution

The defeat of the Briggs
Initiative in California makes it
possible to consider the question
of gay rights without a seige of
mentality.
Named for its author,
conservative State Senator John
Briggs, the state-wide ballot
proposal would have forced
California school boards to fire
teachers who engaged in
homosexual activity, even when
totally divorced from the school
setting. Teachers, who
regardless of their sexual
preferences, merely suggested in
public that homosexuality could
be a "positive lifestyle" also
faced dismissal under this
proposal.

it was, the right to relate to'
people of either sex as you
authentically felt toward them,
and the right not to be defined by
the social expectations connected
with your gender, in dress,
mannerism or taste.
It was not by change that these
rights were advocated by people
who fell toward the homosexual
end of the scale and whose
behaviorhwasviewed as less
acceptable for their sex.

BY JOHN ELLIS

situation against which gay'
liberation originally rebelled.
BEFORE IF you were male or"
female you were expected to
treat people accordingly; now, if
you are gay or straight your
behaviors are thus prescribed.
Many people don't fit the
categories, and they certainly
may not fit them in any
individual encounter.
Even more tragic is the loss of

>m HE UNITED STATES Supreme
,T Court handed down a 5-4 decision
Tuesday that significantly abridges
the right of citizens to be free from
unreasonable searches by police
officers while traveling in an
automobile.:
Imagine for a moment you are
driving your friend's car and a police
officer pulls you over and alleges that
you were speeding. Because of the
Court's decision Tuesday in Rakas vs.
MIllinois the police officer can search
fyour car, and any contraband he er she
discovers is legally admissable at a
trial. Before the decision, law and legal
precedents gave any occupant of an
automobile the right to challenge the
admissibility of evidence seized on the
ground that the search had been
unconstitutional.
Justice William Rehnquist, writing
the opinion for the majority of the
court, said precedents created "too
broad a guage" because they could
allow a "casual visitor" to object to the
search of a house he had legitimately
entered only a minute before the
search began. Justice Rehnquist
added, that the key test should be
whether someone has a
"legitimate expectation of pri-
vacy." Justice Rehnquist did not,
however, clear up this obsequious
phrase.
However, Justice Lewis Powell said
in a concurring opinion that ownership
would play an important role in the
citizen's right to exercise constraints
against police forces.
"Property rights reflect society's
explicit recognition of a person's
authority to act as he wishes in certain
areas," Justice Powell wrote, "and
therefore should be considered in
determining whether an individual's
expectations of privacy are

reasonable."

Although Justices Powell and
Rehnquist suggested that the
distinction they made in Tuesday's
decision would not necessarily apply to
searches of houses or apartments,
where the "traditional expectation of,
privacy" is higher than in a car,{
Rhenquist specifically mentioned
house searches in explaining why the
former definition had been too broad.
The decision is a blatant
abridgement of a citizen's right to
refuse to submit to police searches and
to object to the admission at trial of
evidence -obtained illegally by police
searches. The decision overturns an
earlier precedent, in Jones vs. U.S.,
1960, that extended the right of
challenge to "anyone legitimately on
the premises where a search occurs."
In Tuesday's decision the Court clearly
opens the way for unreasonable
searches anytime a car has more than
one occupant, or possibly, and the
Court does not make this clear, when
the owner of a house is not at home but
a friend happens to be in the house. The
Court made an enormous error in
leaving the latter precedent in a fog of
unclear jurisprudence.
The court has pegged a potential
defendent's civil rights on the question
of his ownership of the property
searched, ignoring the fact that as
citizens they are also free from
unreasonable searches. The Fourth
Amendment says specifically that,
"The right of the people to be secure in
their persons, houses; papers, and
effects, against unreasonable searches
and seizures; shall not be violated. ..
The court's decision in Rakas vs.
Illinois is a significant, repressive
abridgement of a citizen's civil rights.
It was handed down by a court that
often goes too far in its ignorance of the
meaning of the Fourth Amendment.

CALIFORNIA voters rejected
the Briggs Initiative by a 58 to 42
margin in November. On the
same day in Seattle, voters
refused to repeal a gay rights
ordinance by over 60 per cent.
These votes mark the first time
that gay rights have been'
successfully defended at the
polls. Gay activists are claiming
that the victories reverse the
negative trend which began a
year and a half ago with the voter
repeal of a gay rights ordinance
which had been passed by the city
council in Miami. Similar repeals'
followed this past summer in St.
Paul, Wichita and Eugene.
With public opposition less
monolithic, the question can now
be asked: what do we want gay
rights to mean? There are at
least two answers which together
comprise a history of the recent
"gay liberation" movement.
AS LATE AS 1973, the following
definition was popular among
gay liberationists in Ann Arbor:
"Being gay means not relating to
people on the basis of gender.
Gayness means being open to the
full range of relationships with
people regardless of their sex."
Gay liberation, as it emerged in
the U.S. in the early 1970s, did not
mean liberation for one group of
people, the homosexuals. In fact,
those early activists regarded
such categories as part of the
sexist oppression they were
fighting.
Many of the ideas of gay
liberation came from feminism,
whichchallenged the gender
constrictions of male-dominated
society. Not only were women
and men both capable of leading
as well as nurturing, people had a
range of sexual feelings.
INDIVIDUALS fell somewhere
along a scale between the
hetersexual and homosexual
poles and should relate sexually
according to their feelings, not
their gender, just as people's
choice of career or family role
should not be gendered.
Gay rights meant the right to
express your sexuality, whatever

Individuals

fell

somewhere

along

a scale

between

the

hetersexual
poles an
sexually a4
feelings, no

I

and homosexual
should relate
cording to their

)t their gender, just

as people's choice of career or
family role should not be
gender determined.

there seems to be agreement in
both straight and gay society
about what these- words now
mean. Gay does not mean
someone who pursues
relationships regardless of
gender; it means someone who
limits relationships but in the
opposite Way from the social
norm. Gay rights do not mean the
right of people to be their
authentic selves; it means the
right to conform to' a particular
subculture.
IF ONE PREFERS the old
definitions, do you still call
yourself gay?
When gay liberation began,
people disowned the word
"homosexual" because of its
association with past oppression
and took the word, gay.
Homosexual referred to sexual
preference; gay referred to a
political attitude about it.
Is it time for another term? Or
are the categories themselves at
fault?
IT CAN NOT BE denied that
people who called themselves
gay organized the defeat of the
Briggs Initiative in California.. It
is debatable whether a larger
group of, people would work for
the older, expanded version ol
gay rights orwhether a core of
self-identified, if self-limited,
"gays"~ is necessary for th'is
political struggle.
Could one say: "No, I'm not
straight. No, I'm not gay. Yes, I
love whom I will and how I will."
IBut this would not be enough
unless one also said: "Yes, laws
against homosexuality will haVe
to go, and psychiatrists and
psychologists will have to stOp
making money from the people
who are made to feel guilty about
their sexuality and religions will
have to stop encouraging this.
"AND I MIGHT want to kiss
you, regardless."
The interesting thing is that i
you kissed someone _of ,your ow'
sex in public in the state of
Michigan, you would have brokn
one of the 80 laws involvipg
"violent crimes" which now haye
mandatory sentences unde
Proposal B which passed here oa
Election Day. For that, it would
not matter what you caled
yourself.
Nonetheless, I prefer to lus
aside the label, gay, because~o1
what it has come to mean, andt
work instead for what gay onie
meant: being open to a range o
relationships with people,
regardless of gender, age, race,
appearance, status, or ott r
social categories.
0n

ONE MIGHT relate to people
regardless of gender, but when
relations became too intimate
with your own gender, society
intervened. Sexual activity was
then branded illegal by the
courts, unhealthy by psychiatry,
and sinful by religion.

the world view surrounding gay
liberation at its start. Each
encounter with another human
being was to be filled with wonder
and possibility, not limited by
social expression.
Certainly the restrictions based
on age, race, appearance,
wealth, social status and so on

<4

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k
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SIM

So it is not surprising that over which operate in "gay culture"
time gay rights became securing today, at least among men, were
rights for an oppressed minority, not included in the idea of
the gays. The gays were people liberation.
who were largely orwexclusively NEITHER WAS bisexuality
homosexual in their behavior .when it meant hopping from one
With society breathing down social category to another
their necks, people chose one side without challenging their sexist
or the other of the line, "gay" or roots and conveniently forgetting
"straight." one's homosexual "excursions"
The difficulty with this when necessary.
transformation of the meaning of But the earlier definition of gay
gay rights is not that people did leave room for people who
aren't likely to be predominantly wanted to interact erotically - in
hetersexual or homosexual in the original Greek sense of eros,
their feelings, as many are. The the impulse for deep connection
problem is that drawing a line - with both genders, without
and asking people to step on requiring that sex always follows
either side, while understandable and yet being 'open to the
as a response to 'social possibility.
repression, recreates the This history notwithstanding,

John Ellis is a
contributor to the
Page.

frequn
Editoi a

LETTERS TO THE DAILY

Unselfish students
To theDaily:
Regarding an item in your
letters column on December 6.
Now wait a minute. As a 19-
year old sophomore at this
prestigious Big Ten university, I
am sick unto death of having
every two-bit editorial writer
take potshots at my generation of
college students. Yes, yes, it's
true, my friends and I bear little
resemblance to the students that
roamed this campus ten years
ago. We prefer neat, styled hair-
cuts to the grown-out, parted-in-
the-middle look. Instead of acid,
we enjoy beer, and most of us
have done no more to stop world
hunger than drop a coin into a
canister at the local drugstore.
We are materialistic. We do not
organize sit-ins or rallies. Our
immediate goal in life is to earn a
degree and, after that, a fine-
paying job. Naughty, naughty us.

Aren't we selfish and socially un-
concerned.
The truth is, we have all grown
up watching the drama of the 60s
college student, and we have no
intention of repeating their
mistakes. We followed the saga of
Timothy Leary and Abbie Hof-
fman, whom radical students
worshipped as gods. One turned
out to be a crackpot who urged
young people into masturbatory
and dangerous experiments with
drugs; the other was a shiftless
jerk whose contribution to the
"revolution" was a few distur-
bance of the peace infractions
and a book on shoplifting. What
did those radical students ac-
complish with their marches,
anyway, and where are these
"concerned" people now? I un-
derstand one group of them gave
up their altruistic ideals and
became establishment types like
us, while the others work factory
jobs or own pottery shops. They

sure as hell haven't gone out and
changed the world. I can see that
babies are still starving, nuclear
plants are popping up all over the
map, and we have a reactionary
in the White House. Of course, the
war in Vietnam ended, but Nixon
only did that as a re-election bid,
not because of Kent State (what a
senseless ;waste of human life!
But how stupid those kids were to
antagonize the NationalIGuard!
Sorry, that's the way my
generation thinks.)
I totally disagree with Glaza
and Placenia and' their ac-
cusations of indifference and,
ignorance of social issues. We
refuse things in our society that
we can't change. We refuse to
waste our time protesting,
because it's a proven fact that
doesn't change a goddamn thing
except relieve our personal guilt
about the issue. But we are just
as sensitive and human as our
-sixties brethren; we do our best

to alleviate the pain and suffering
of others.
Believe me, no one goes
through med school or the law rat
race just toearn a buck. We have
social consciouces like everybody
else, we simply don't show them
of . We utilize them in our
everyday lives and our
aspirations. We will go on to
change the world, not just get
stoned and dream about it.
As for social issues, we are
more knowledgeable about them
than ever, since we learn about
them from well-informed sovj
ces, not just leftist progaganE
rags.
So stop insulting nV
generation, my concerns for the
future and my way of life.
aren't any more selfish or stupi
than the sixties generation. If yqu
ask me, they were a little more
stupid and selfish than us.
-Anne Sharp*
LSA Sophomore s

Pot still not decriminalized

The Michigan state legislature
rejected a bill Tuesday that would
have decriminalized marijuana by
lowering the penalties in several key
instances.
By turning down the proposal, which
has been the center of bitter debate
and controversy throughout the
session, the legislature has once again
missed the reality of the situation. And
although a motion to re-consider the
bill may come up in the next few days,
its supporters see no chance of
securing passage.

making them ex-criminals.
For instance, while the bill doesn't
go far enough because it fails to
legalize marijuana, it does serve as a
stepping stone to make the punishment
a lot less severe and prevents the
conviction from going on the person's
permanent record. At least, it's an
improvement.
A disturbing factor of Tuesday's
debate which may have clinched the
victory for the anti-marijuana group
was the inclusion by Rep. Rosetta
Ferguson (D-Detroit) who mentioned

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