Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Why I Will Never Move to Alabama

Via the indispensable Bookslut, an interesting twist on conservatism in one of the reddest of red states: it appears that Alabama state representative Gerald Allen (R-Cottondale) has proposed a bill prohibiting the use of public funds for activities that "sanction, recognize, foster or promote a lifestyle or actions prohibited by the sodomy and sexual misconduct laws of the state." While the bill (which is not likely to pass, thank goodness) would have broad application, Rep. Allen seems to be especially interested in quashing the arts - specifically, the arts in public schools and universities. The University of Alabama paper The Crimson White reports:

HB30, if it were to become law, would prohibit use of public facilities for performances of plays with gay characters, such as "A Chorus Line," in addition to works by gay authors such as Oscar Wilde. Books written by gay authors or books that have gay characters, as well as textbooks referencing homosexuality as an alternative lifestyle, would also be banned from state-funded schools and libraries.
The U of A theatre department is understandably a little miffed about the proceedings:
Peder Melhuse, a UA associate theater professor, said he has little fear the bill will ever become law. But "if it did go through, I would certainly go out of my way to choose and vote for [productions] that went right in the face of the law," he said. [snip] Melhuse said the bill's broad ban would severely limit theater department productions, and not just plays with overtly gay themes, characters or authors, he said, but those that deal with topics like AIDS as well.
Conservatives attacking the arts is nothing new, of course - hell, that's been happening since Euripides was shocking the judges at the City Dionysia - but educational theatre usually manages to stay above the fray, if only because it's usually not even on the radar of most public figures. Rep. Allen, however, clearly feels that exposing young minds to the radical ideas of Lady Windermere's Fan is a dangerous activity. In a statement release to the public, Allen "argues"

"Plays glamorizing homosexuality, books advocating gay and lesbian activities, public financial support for activities organized by homosexuals have created an undue influence on the children in our schools."

Undue influence. Riiiiiiiight. No word yet on whether Allen intends to penalize local network affiliates for showing "Will and Grace" or local radio stations for playing Melissa Etheridge songs.