Out and in harm’s way: the stabbing of Paris’s gay mayor has some people asking whether openly gay politicians are at more risk for attack – Politics

“I want Paris to take risks,” the city’s openly gay mayor, Bertrand Delanoe, said on October 5. “Otherwise, how is it going to become an international city to attract lovers of freedom and pleasure?” Just seven hours after making the statement, Delanoe was stabbed in the stomach by a man who admitted afterward that he dislikes gays. While Delanoe is expected to recover fully, the attack has led some people to wonder whether openly gay politicians are at higher risk for violent attacks–whether they’re essentially making themselves living targets for antigay zealots.

What is known about Delanoe’s alleged assailant certainly suggests that this isn’t an unreasonable question. Azedine Berkane, who was being held for attempted murder in the attack, told police that he stabbed Delanoe because he “didn’t like politicians and didn’t like homosexuals.”

Bob Kearney, political director for the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, which helps openly gay candidates get elected to public office in the United States, said there are legitimate reasons gay public officials and candidates should be concerned. “Gay and lesbian candidates face homophobia on the campaign trail every day–every time they stand on a stage, make a speech, or put out a yard sign,” Kearney said. “They may not face a knife, but they face homophobia.” More than 100 openly gay and lesbian candidates are seeking elective office in the United States this year, Kearney said.

Still, Massachusetts congressman Barney Frank, arguably the best-known openly gay elected official in the country, said he does not think being an out politician makes him more vulnerable to physical attack. “I mostly get `after death’ threats,” he said, chuckling–referring to letters from Christian fundamentalists saying he won’t go to heaven because he is gay. “There are crazy bigots in the world. Yet I don’t see any signs that gay politicians are more vulnerable than their straight colleagues.”

Out lesbian California state senator Sheila Kuehl agrees. “I have more animosity directed at me over my political views than my sexual orientation,” she said. The real problem, she added, is hatred in general: “That’s the real threat, whether it’s directed at gay people or other minorities.”

COPYRIGHT 2002 Liberation Publications, Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group

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