Gay Center's Feud Over Middle Eastern Politics Flares Up Again
The simmering feud at the LGBT Center over Middle Eastern politics — and who gets to use the landmark gay center to argue about it — flared up again last night with yet another cancellation of an event.
This time, it was the Orthodox Jewish gay group GLYDSA (Gay and Lesbian Yeshiva Day School Alumni Association), which had scheduled a meeting featuring guest speaker Michael Lucas, the gay-porn impresario and ardent Zionist. GLYDSA is also pro-Israel, and the meeting promised to be raucous with protests against Lucas for causing the cancellation of a "Party to End Apartheid!," an anti-Zionist meeting scheduled last month by Siege Busters but kiboshed by the Gay Center.
Lucas was to speak about his role in lobbying for the cancellation. But at the last minute, the Orthodox Jewish gays decided to call off their own meeting at the center and hold it at another location.
In February, the Siege Busters Working Group, which had been meeting in the Center for months, planned a fundraising dance to raise money to send a boat to Gaza. When Lucas found out about it, he threatened to organize a boycott by the Center's donors unless the event was canceled. The Center canceled it, and its officials explained, when pressed, that neither the group nor activity were "LGBT focused" and "distracted" from the Center's "core mission."
After weeks of controversy over that decision, the Center hosted a "community forum" meeting to discuss the topic of meetings at the Center.
A few days later, on March 13, GYLDSA announced a meeting at the Center for March 24, featuring Lucas. "He worked hard this past month to thwart the 'Israeli Apartheid Week' activities from taking place at the LGBT Center," GYLDSA announced. "He will discuss the incident at the Center as well as his positions on gay rights and politics in the Middle East."
Members of Siege Busters, and others who supported the anti-Zionist activists' right to meet at the Center, howled, questioning the double standard of allowing a pro-Israel group to host a controversial speaker, while forbidding a pro-Palestine group from doing it own thing at the Center.
But on the eve of yesterday's event, the Orthodox Jewish gay group moved it to another locale.
When Lucas was asked about it, he told the Voice, "The group decided not to do it at the Center. The reason is simple. The Gay Center told the Jewish group that they had received threats and at the same time cannot guarantee the safety of the members of GLYDSA who attend. So the group decided to meet at a different location and I am still speaking."
Fanning the flames of the feud, Lucas added, "The problem is that the Center got so much involved with anti-Semitic groups that now Jews don't feel safe meeting there any longer."
There's no evidence of that, and the Center's officials — and GYLDSA — deny that there have been any threats or pressure. "We are a small private group with no interest in publicity," a group spokesman tells us. "We received no threats, nor did the Center ask us to 'un-invite' Michael Lucas."
"I know of none of us who would have made a request for him not to speak," says Siege Busters member Sherry Wolf, who has sparred with Lucas over the past month. "Our point has never been to silence those we disagree with, but to have a diversity of voices heard. People would have protested and challenged his racism, but not try to have him banned or anything like that."