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Gate City at a crossroads in its gay-friendly quotient

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The late ’90s was a pretty good time to be gay. Homosexuality had thrived for years in cities like New York, San Francisco and New Orleans, but some time during the Clinton administration the gay lifestyle not so quietly slipped into the mainstream. Elton John came out of the closet. Rosie O’Donnell and Ellen DeGeneres lived their lives unapologetically with members of the same sex. And in real-world America the homosexual lifestyle gained a degree of acceptance in somewhat less cutting-edge places like Dallas, Oxford, Miss., and even Greensboro.

A lot of gay people live in Greensboro. They’ve bought homes and started businesses and have earned rightful places as leaders, neighbors and friends in the community.

But in recent times gays have suffered something of a backlash. The issue of gay marriage has yet to be settled satisfactorily and was even used as a wedge in the last election. ‘“Will and Grace’” has been cancelled and some religious groups have expressed a ‘zero-tolerance’ policy towards the homosexual lifestyle.

But even in the current climate, Hollywood managed to release the first gay love story to gain widespread accolades.

Greensboro was one of the first cities in North Carolina to screen Brokeback Mountain, which makes sense to us ‘— Greensboro seems at street level to be a fairly gay-friendly town. But just last week the Triad became the scene for gay controversy.

When the Winston-Salem company Graffiti Ads refused to place an ad for Alterative Resources for the Triad in their restroom placards, the cause was seized upon by the Greensboro blogosphere and relayed to the many, many gay business owners in the city. The gay business community flexed a little muscle of their own: a letter-writing campaign and a proposed boycott of the advertising company. Yet Graffiti Ads, as of this writing, has not capitulated, though a gay employee of theirs released a missive defending his bosses, saying that they are not actually homophobic but that they didn’t want to offend the people who are.

Our question is this: What’s it gonna be, Greensboro? Are people capable of falling in love with the same sex welcome in our neighborhoods, our stores and sidewalks? Or will we resort to the provincialist position of fearing what we don’t understand, condemning what’s different?

We hope that Greensboro will see the rainbow-colored light on this one. Our gay citizens contribute so many things to this city, and not just in our hair salons, art galleries, design firms and restaurants. They contribute to the tapestry of human experience that makes even smaller cities great ones.

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