Sacred Cow Tipping
In the months since Alan Hooker began writing "The Gay Agenda" for Lavender magazine, he's taken shots at state Republican House Majority Leader Tim Pawlenty for pandering to the Christian right and at DFL Rep. Phyllis Kahn for jeopardizing the political futures of Minneapolis's three openly gay city council members. Brought onboard to slay sacred cows, he was supposed to provide some political grit to the biweekly gay and lesbian publication. As Hooker put it in his most recent column, he was to be "a gay version of the Star Tribune's Doug Grow."
But Hooker's days of speaking truth to power--at least at Lavender--are over. He is finished writing "The Gay Agenda."
The reason, not surprisingly, is politics. Specifically, the recent DFL state senate contest between former Minneapolis School Board Chair Catherine Shreves and Rep. Scott Dibble. At the party's May 11 convention, the Shreves campaign circulated a flyer announcing that Lavender had endorsed her. Never mind that Dibble is openly gay and has been one of the most vocal proponents of domestic-partner benefits for state workers--a major issue for the GLBT community. And never mind that the magazine had not published anything about its choice for the senate seat within its own pages.
"My eyebrows were raised," says Dibble. "But I wasn't rattled by it, because I was pretty sure it wouldn't make much difference." The first-term legislator's confidence proved warranted: At the convention, Dibble won the party's backing on the first ballot.
The endorsement left many in the gay community feeling betrayed and angry. "My first reaction upon hearing about it was one of outrage," says Tim Petlock, associate chair of the Stonewall DFL caucus, which endorsed Dibble. "I fully respect Lavender's right to endorse candidates in any way they choose. However, if they are truly acting...in the interest of the GLBT community, then why didn't they choose to publish [the endorsement] in a regularly scheduled issue?" Stonewall DFL has posted the Shreves endorsement flyer on its Web site under the headline "Lavender, how could you?" It has also stopped advertising in the magazine.
Lavender founder and president Stephen Rocheford declined to answer questions about the uproar, referring City Pages to an editorial addressing the issue in the publication's May 31 edition. In the unsigned editorial, Lavender accuses DFL delegates of harassing two unnamed lesbians who supported Shreves. "These quasi-terroristic tactics on the part of some GLBT DFLers sound like a scene from Afghanistan before the liberation," it reads. The editorial goes on to decry the notion that gays and lesbians should automatically support candidates who share their sexual orientation and to portray Stonewall DFL as intolerant and tyrannical. (Lavender published its endorsement of Shreves for the first time three weeks after the convention.)
Plenty of other people have opinions about why Lavender quietly lent Shreves its support. People like Alan Hooker. In May Hooker wrote a column laying out why he thought it was important to fill the open senate seat with a gay legislator, namely Dibble. He pointed out that the post had previously been held by Alan Spear, the first openly gay elected state representative in the country. By the time the column appeared in the magazine, however, it had been edited to temper his support for Dibble. Hooker says he initially was willing to overlook the changes as heavy-handed editing. But following Lavender's decision to endorse Shreves, he spoke up.
He is convinced that the magazine's disappointment with Dibble is rooted in the legislator's support for workers at Lavender who voted to unionize last year. Dibble appeared at a pro-union rally and spoke in favor of the employees' right to organize. "The only thing that's a common denominator here between Scott Dibble and Lavender is that he spoke out in support of Lavender employees being able to organize," Hooker says. "And that is one thing that sends Steven Rocheford into a mouth-spitting frenzy."
Dibble concurs with this assessment: "My guess is that this was a decision on the part of the owner and publisher," he says. "A reaction to my support for those Lavender employees that were trying to form a union."
And Hooker? He laid out all of this political infighting in one last column, but Lavender declined to publish it. He will slay no more sacred cows for the magazine. "Some of the cows," he concludes sadly, "were grazing in their own backyard."
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