The Mayor and Marriage

February 18, 2005

To the Editor:

Mayor Michael Bloomberg says he is appealing State Supreme Court Justice Doris Ling-Cohan’s decision to get a definitive answer on same-sex marriage and avoid issuing marriage licenses that may later turn out not to be valid (“Mayor’s Appeal Fraught with Contradiction,” by Paul Schindler, Feb. 10-16).

But the brief he filed in the appeal does not just seek to get the issue resolved by the Court of Appeals. It attacks the right to marry in vehement, inflammatory terms.

If the mayor truly supports same-sex marriage, then he should reverse his decision and tell his lawyers to work with the lawyers for the couples who brought the case. Together, they should develop a legal strategy to support and strengthen the ruling. If that means getting the case to the Court of Appeals, it should be done with the city being as supportive as possible of the right to marry.

As the prime sponsor of the Duane-Gottfried Right to Marry Bill in the State Assembly, I am pleased that the mayor has offered his support to achieve a bi-partisan legislative solution in Albany. I look forward to working with him to achieve this.

Richard N. Gottfried

Assemblyman, 75th District, Manhattan

The Super-Virus and the Community

February 22, 2005

To the Editor:

I appreciate the recent thoughtful editorial (“Super-Viruses, One Step at a Time,” by Paul Schindler, Feb. 17-23). It was balanced and careful. I wanted to respond to three issues.

First, everyone seems hyperactive about this information stigmatizing gay men. Virtually all of the press coverage I have participated in, heard, read and seen has been friendly and concerned about the health of gay men. The press reports I saw were certainly no more sensationalized than the publicity generated by the hyperventilation from the HIV Forum activities. Just as the discussion about gay sex and sexual safety has changed as evidenced in the forums so well attended by the Chelsea white community, so has the general public’s tone. I think the general public is genuinely concerned about crystal meth use just as is the gay community They just woke up later.

Second, to hold out Dr. Gallo as “HIV Discoverer” (see front cover) proves what short memories we have. A more accurate description would have been the man who borrowed the HIV virus and then claimed to have discovered it and then suffered public scorn. There is a genuine debate in the scientific community about whether this is a new strain or not. This debate needs to play out and we should not ascribe devious motives to the participants. Quite frankly I was pleased to see so many people “rediscovering” AIDS. May be some good will come out of it.

Third, the more serious issue is Dr. Frieden’s off-handed remarks about changes to the New York State confidentiality law ( Article 27). He apparently wants to be able to track people who are progressing from HIV infection to AIDS. What he wants to do with this information and whom he wants to share it with are open questions. We should not rush to judgment. Let’s see the whole proposal in black and white before responding.

I would like to see more HIV testing done by more mainstream medical providers. Right now, the process for HIV testing is itself somewhat stigmatizing by being a separate thing that most doctors won’t engage in because of the state law. Our community members are referred to the counselors at Gay Men’s Health Crisis, including people who are not out or not gay. What could be more stigmatizing?

There are also huge issues of stigmatization for black and Latino men and women getting an HIV diagnosis that can keep them from getting medical care or even taking the test before they develop AIDS. Statistics show that for people of color there is a very short gap between testing positive and receiving an AIDS diagnosis. If Commissioner Frieden is serious, he needs to invest resources in the combating stigma in communities of color. I am waiting to see what he has in mind. I know that he is an inclusive and committed public health officer. He deserves our patience.

Dennis deLeon

President Latino Commission on AIDS

February 22, 2005

To the Editor:

Regarding your recent editorial, “Super-Viruses, One Step at a Time,” why are people so blind? More importantly, why are gay men so blind? Does no one remember? Before AIDS, gay men in the “gay enclaves” of New York City and San Francisco were awash in rampant cases of gonorrhea, syphilis and herpes. What was their response? They went to their sympathetic doctors, got a Z-pac and went right back to the same unhealthy f**cking and s**king. In retrospect, AIDS was an epidemic just waiting to happen.

But before straights breathe a sigh of relief, let’s face it. These facts do not absolve straight hedonists from guilt. The days of Plato’s Retreat are well documented and straights still engage in unbelievably wanton sexual escapades (see “Girls Gone Wild” and MTV). That they haven’t been swept up in the AIDS epidemic is a function of sexual practices. Will I see a “straight AIDS” in my lifetime?

I am a gay man who has had sex in monogamous relationships but also dog-like when single. But unlike most gay men, I have accepted responsibility for my health because I have learned and come to believe that gay men have sex differently than straights. Therefore the rules are different.

Crystal meth? Hundreds of sex partners? I see legions of my brothers surrendering to despair as our society relegates us to permanent second-class citizenship. I grieve for them one and all. I grieve for us all.

Charley Beal


Sontag Appreciated

February 18, 2004

To The Editor:

I was among many of your readers who were genuinely moved by James McCourt’s “Farewell To A Friend” (January 20-26), his very touching piece about his late friend Susan Sontag. Thank you.

Kenneth Breger

New York City