The New York Times has also picked up the story about Grey’s Anatomy actor Isaiah Washington calling his cast-mate, T.R. Knight, a "faggot" on the set and again (indirectly) at the Golden Globe awards. The story is on the most emailed list.
Do Americans just love a clebrity smack-down or are they actually concerned about the use of epithets? I have a hard time believing the latter given that, even in San Francisco, I hear "faggot" used as an epithet at least once a week. (See update below.) Perhaps the story has gotten big because the entertainment industry wants to make a show of its tolerance. The number of gay actors in Los Angeles is so high that if networks develop a reputation for crapping on them, they won’t be able to stay in business.
More compellingly, the Times is running an article on GLBT opposition to Harold Ford’s nomination for chair of the Democratic Leadership Council. Ford lost his bid for Tennessee’s Senate seat largely because he was just as conservative as his Republican opponent (that and he’s black). Ford was one of just 34 votes for a national constitutional amendment barring gays from that precious institution of marriage.
As Democrats try to portray Ford as one of them, conservatives are frantically trying to defend Mitt Romney from charges that he is a closet gay-lover (these charges come despite the fact that after Romney had exhausted all legal options for halting gay marriage as governor, he filed suit as an individual.) Both dust-ups suggest that gay rights advocates will have a voice in the 2008 election, rather than being just an easy smear target as they have been in the last three elections.
Statistics on use of epithets
GLSEN, a group focused on creating GLBT-friendly educational policies, reports that in 2005 three-quarters of all GLBT high school students often heard derogatory remarks such as "faggot" or "dyke," and nearly nine out of ten frequently heard "that's so gay" to mean "that's so stupid." Meanwhile, only nine states and the District of Columbia have comprehensive anti-bullying laws that include sexual orientation and only three include gender identity.