Friday, March 17, 2006

Bush Under Attack From Right For Allowing HIV+ Attend Gay Games

The Bush administration has granted special permission for overseas attendees of the Gay Games in Chicago this summer who are HIV+ to enter the country, and right-wing bigots in Illinois are none too happy. The Chicago Sun-Times reports, "A 'pro-family' group wants the Bush administration to revoke its decision to allow HIV-positive foreigners to enter the country for the Gay Games in Chicago this summer."

Under a 1993 provision of the Immigration and Naturalization Act, people infected with HIV and other highly infectious diseases that are considered public health risks are not allowed visas unless special waivers are granted. A blanket waiver for attendees of the Gay Games was granted by the Bush administration, similar to a waiver granted to attendees of the 1994 Gay Games in New York.

Right-wing bigots claim that the Bush administration's decision to grant the waiver will pave the way for the spread of HIV in this country. "The people of Chicago should know we have a ban on HIV travelers, it's there to protect citizens, and it's not a wise move to remove the ban," Peter LaBarbera of the Illinois Family Institute said. "People on the pro-family side are not too pleased with it, and we're putting pressure on to reinstate the ban," he said. A spokesman for the Gay Games called the groups efforts to block the waiver as "abhorrent and irresponsible . . . fear mongering."

The Sun-Times reports that "the eight-day Gay Games are expected to draw 12,000 athletes from 100 countries competing in 30 sports ranging from softball to swimming." The opening ceremonies are set for July 15 at Soldier Field.

LaBarbera focused on a sponsorship of the event by a gay bathhouse as justification for his position. The Sun-Times says that he "argues that the Gay Games bathhouse sponsor and other 'extracurricular' activities show the event is about promoting a lifestyle more than athletics." "These bathhouses can be very dangerous when you invite HIV in with an exception. The doors are closed, and you don't know what's going on inside," LaBarbera said. "That shows there's much more going on than just playing softball. . . . They're celebrating homosexuality and the more unseemly aspects of it."

It sounds like LaBarbera's been spending a little bit too much time in the gay bathhouses himself. A spokesman for the Gay Games calls it a "tired right-wing strategy" that no longer works.

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