December 9, 2005

Gay cowboys hit U.S. screen, but no rings just yet

By Claudia Parsons

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A gay cowboy movie won rave reviews on
Friday as mainstream Hollywood embraced the tale of Marlboro
men in love, but for most gay Americans the acceptance
symbolized by marriage remains a distant dream.

Based on an Annie Proulx's short story, "Brokeback
Mountain" is about two cowboys who meet and fall in love while
wrangling sheep in Wyoming in 1963. Their love lasts through
two decades as they each get married to women and live "normal"

"Moving and majestic," said The New York Times; "An
American masterpiece" said the New York Observer; "Unmissable
and unforgettable" said Rolling Stone.

But The Wall Street Journal asked, "Is America ready for
Marlboro men who love men?"

One answer delivered by a New York state court this week
was "No" -- at least when it comes to marriage.

A lower New York court had ruled in February the rights of
five same-sex couples were violated when they were denied
marriage licenses.

But in a 4-1 ruling on Thursday, the state appellate court
said it was not for judges to redefine the terms "husband" and
"wife," which the lower court judge had said should be
construed to apply equally between men and women.

Janice Crouse, senior fellow of Concerned Women for
America, said the latest court ruling was a victory for common
sense despite a powerful and orchestrated campaign to
"normalize homosexual behavior," in which entertainment was a
powerful weapon.


Gay marriage was a big issue in 2004 elections when voters
in 11 states overwhelmingly backed state constitutional
amendments to define marriage as a union between a man and a

David Buckel, senior counsel for gay rights group Lambda
Legal Defense and Education Fund that is fighting gay marriage
cases in at least six states, describes that campaign as a
complicated patchwork from state to state.

Legal status for gay couples varies widely -- Massachusetts
is the only state to allow gay marriages, while Nebraska passed
a constitutional amendment in 2000 blocking any same-sex civil
union, domestic partnership or marriage from being recognized.

"As with all civil rights movements there's an enormous
amount of flux. ... It's familiar, it's dispiriting at times,
it's very encouraging at times," Buckel said.

The makers of "Brokeback Mountain" will be hoping the
political backlash in some states won't scuttle the $12.5
million movie, which is being rolled out gradually, starting in
the liberal cities of New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

A recent Pew Research Center poll showed 53 percent of
Americans supported gay civil unions, up from 48 percent one
year earlier.

But "Brokeback Mountain" still faces a struggle.

Rolling Stone reviewer Peter Travers called it a "a
landmark film" but said "with the rise of homophobia as church
and state shout down gay marriage, the film is up against it."

Although "Brokeback Mountain" is restricted to audiences 17
or older, Crouse said it was part of a broad campaign to use
entertainment to promote a homosexual lifestyle to children.

"Their major agenda is to make this normal," she said.
"They know cowboys have this macho image, cowboys are
particularly admired by children, cowboys are heroes."

But she said the film would not have broad appeal. "Most
parents don't want their children indoctrinated," she said.

Damon Romine, a spokesman for the Gay and Lesbian Alliance
against Defamation, compared the film to "Philadelphia," the
1993 film about a gay AIDS sufferer played by Tom Hanks.

"In today's climate, a sweeping romantic epic about two men
in love is historic, but when we look back in 20 or 30 years
'Brokeback Mountain' will simply be considered a classic,
timeless love story," he said.