avert your eyes

Wait. Is Carl Paladino Right About Sexed Up Gay Pride Parades + Kids?

I was wondering when somebody (besides Ann Coulter, and Michele Bachmann) would come to the defense of Carl Paladino for saying things like gays “brainwash” kids into joining their lifestyle. That man is Slate‘s William Saletan, and he thinks Paladino is right about our gay pride parades: they’re no place for kids.

Paladino did apologize, belatedly, and says the only thing he actually hates about gays is their attempt to get married (but: “I have the same position on this issue as President Barrack Obama”). But he didn’t specifically address his statements aimed at opponent Andrew Cuomo, who “took his daughters to a gay pride parade. Is that normal? Would you do it? Would you take your children to a gay pride parade? … I don’t think it is proper to go there and watch a couple of grown men grind against each other. It’s disgusting.”

Writes Saletan:

Cuomo’s kids are 16, 16, and 13. I’m sure they’ve seen plenty of bikinis and grinding already. But Paladino is right about the gyrating Speedos. Gay pride parades aren’t the best thing to take little kids to, especially if you want them to think of homosexuals as normal people. You’d be better off taking them to a picnic where boring gay couples chat about one another’s kids and gardens. You’d be better off, in short, if gay people were married.

I lived for 10 years along the route of the gay pride parade in Washington, D.C. The New York parade is bigger but similar. You can watch a video montage of it here. You’ll see ordinary folks: grandparents in sun hats, a parade queen in a tiara, a bicycling AIDS activist in a suit and bowtie, and a guy with a sign that says, “You know what’s so gay? My family.” But you’ll also see scrotal pouches, jockstrapped drag queens, men with exposed butt cheeks, a guy with a flagpole in his pants, women wearing nothing but pasties, and a nearly naked dude grinding his crotch against a pole. The Onion, as my colleague Farhad Manjoo reminds me, once summarized these freak shows in a brilliant parody: “Gay-Pride Parade Sets Mainstream Acceptance Of Gays Back 50 Years.”

Drag queens and butt-cheek boys don’t represent gay America any more than Mardi Gras, Spring Break, and Jersey Shore represent straight America. The reality is less sexy. According to the most recent census estimates, 700,000 to 800,000 same-sex couples now live together. One-third of them are raising children. But most of these people don’t refer to their partners as spouses, and few have gotten married. Legally, they can’t.

I’m not even going to touch what qualifies as “normal” depictions of gay Americans, the same way I’d never touch definitions of “normal blacks” or “normal Christians.” But Saletan does touch on one notable weakness in Paladino’s argument against both parades and gay marriage.

That’s what makes Paladino’s position so odd. “I have no reservations whatsoever about gays, except for marriage,” he said on GMA. “I only have one problem with homosexuality, and that’s their desire to be married.” On Today, he drew the same line. When Fox News asked him why he had brought up homosexuality, Paladino said the real difference between him and Cuomo was on gay marriage.

But if skimpily clad pole dancers are bad models for kids, the obvious antidote is to legalize and promote gay marriage. Then politicians wouldn’t have to march with boys in bikinis to show their support of equal rights. There’d be a Mardi-Gras-style parade for the nipple flaunters, and a family-friendly parade for the boring gay couples. The couples could walk with their kids. And your kids could watch.

For now, the only gay person Paladino apparently knows — his nephew and campaign aide Jeff Hannon — is keeping mostly quiet, avoiding the press and, until everything dies down on the campaign trail, though he did tell the Post, “Obviously, I’m very offended by his comments.”