LETTER TO GAY & LESBIAN GROUPS:  IN RESPONSE TO JOSEPH CHERNER'S APPEARANCE ON ABC's 20/20 
"ALL WE ASK IS TO BE TREATED AS FAIRLY AS EVERYONE ELSE"
 
 

Dear Sirs/Madams,

My name is Audrey Silk.  I reside in Brooklyn, New York.  Allow me to begin
by stating that I am a firm believer that no one, regardless of race,
creed, color or sexual preference, should be treated unfairly or disallowed
the same opportunities guaranteed the citizens of the United States in
life, liberty or the pursuit of happiness.  I am non-judgemental in the
sincerest hopes that I will be repaid in kind, that no one will judge me.
I strongly adhere to the saying, "To each his own," because someone else's
life belongs to them and should not be the victim of someone else's attempt
to change that, merely because they do not agree with that person's life or
it does not conform to some group standard.

That said, I was wondering if you were aware of the ABC 20/20 show that
aired on Friday, March 9, 2001?  (To view an abstract of the segment go to
http://abcnews.go.com/sections/2020/2020/2020_010309_gayparents.html).  The
topic concerned children of gay parents and the effects (if any) it had on
their lives, socially and familial.  The segment featured Mr. Joseph
Cherner, a NYC resident, and his partner and their two daughters.  As you
may or may not know, Mr. Cherner is the head of Smoke-Free Educational
Services and the policy chair for the group, Coalition for a Smoke-Free
City.  He is an anti-smoking advocate.

What astounds me is that a man who advocates smoking bans in order to
manipulate a group of people into giving up their habit can sound so
appalled when confronted with intolerance directed towards his own personal
and family lifestyle.  Towards the end of the interview, conducted by
Barbara Walters, Mr. Cherner stated that he could not understand how anyone
could question two fathers of being capable enough to raise their daughters
when these daughters are given as much or more love than any other family.
It strikes me as extremely hypocritical that a man who more than likely has
experienced intolerance because of his lifestyle and who would do anything
to protect his daughters against discrimination or highly charged anti-gay
remarks would turn around and seek to discriminate against adults who
choose to smoke.  Do not let him fool you when he says he supports smoking
bans to protect the health of others.  It his goal to eradicate smoking by
making it impossible for anyone to find a place to light up in public.  On
March 1, 2001, he appeared before the New York City Council during a
hearing concerning a proposal for  more smoking restrictions and spent
forty minutes explaining how smoking bans will encourage others to kick the
habit, among other things.

Mr. Cherner seeks to forcefully change people for their own good.  Could
the same not be said about those who are mistaken in their beliefs in that
gays and lesbians "choose" to be gay or lesbian?  Shouldn't that knowledge,
that others believe you could change if you wanted to and that that would
be "in your best interest," be enough to keep a gay or lesbian from wanting
to change others who do not conform to their own moral standards?

Let me superimpose Mr. Cherner's ideals over some ridiculous statements so
that you fully understand how I feel:

Anti-Gay statement:   Fine, love whomever you want.
Cherner's view:  Smoke as much as you want.

Anti-Gay statement:   But you are banned from having sex with him/her...
Cherner's view:  But we will make it impossible for you to find a place to
smoke...

Anti-Gay statement:  ...because of the AIDS crisis .  We don't want to pay
your health care costs.
Cherner's view:  We're paying for your "smoking related diseases."

Anti-Gay statement:  And you don't *have to* have sex to live do you??
Cherner's view:  Nobody *has to* smoke.

 Add to that the comparison that Anti-Gays are hell bent on saving gays
from themselves the way Cherner wants to save smokers from themselves.

As you see, I am quite upset that Mr. Cherner has the nerve to go on
national television and admonish people for not accepting his lifestyle and
then dares to tell others how to live.

Due to Mr. Cherner's anti-smoking activism it is easy for me to believe
that he teaches his daughters what so many other anti-smoking funded
educational classes are teaching children in school these days.  They go
beyond teaching them the risks involved with smoking.  They teach them that
smokers themselves are to be pitied, are despicable and smelly, and that
they are below others in class.

So when I saw, during the end of the interview, one of his daughters
wearing a shirt with the words "Smoking. Yuk," emblazoned on it I was
enraged.  I ask you, what do you think his daughters think about smokers,
let alone smoking, with this man (an anti-smoking activist) as their
father?  How grossly hypocritical is that to the message he was airing
about his family?  While explaining to his daughters that bias towards them
is uncalled for he is teaching and using them to spread a message of bias
towards another group.  While he pursues his happiness he wants to impose
on mine.  At this rate, with Mr. Cherner's help, smokers will be the next
targets of hate crime.  There are already some who advocate the physical
assault of smokers.  They get these ideas from people like Mr. Cherner who
puts down smoking and those who smoke.  It's not that he himself has said
to do this but others use his speech to become action.  Members of the
medical community have chosen not to treat smokers.  An Australian man died
recently when he was denied a transplant due to his status as a smoker.

I would sincerely like to know your opinion in this argument.  Taking into
account that Mr. Cherner is part of the gay community and has gone on
television representing that community, I would like to know if you find
Mr. Cherner's attitude about smoking and smokers offensive to the ideals of
ALL groups who have been the victims of prejudice, discrimination and
intolerance.  In my opinion he deserves a reprimand for his actions because
it conflicts with his own situation.  I would even go as far to suggest
that he be ostracized.

Thank you for your time and attention to this matter.  Please respond.

Audrey Silk
Founder, NYC Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment  (NYC C.L.A.S.H.)
P.O. Box 1036
Brooklyn, New York  11234

Email: 102776.1270@compuserve.com
 

CC:  ABC's 20/20

ACTION GROUPS:

New York City

     Act Up/New York
     Fordham University Gay and Lesbian Law Association (GALA)
     Gay & Lesbian Anti-Violence Project
     Gay & Lesbian Independent Democrats
     Gay Asian & Pacific Islander Men of New York
     Gay Men's Health Crisis
     Lambda Independent Democrats of Brooklyn
     Latinos & Latinas de Ambiente/NY
     Log Cabin Republicans
     Marriage Equality
     New York AIDS Coalition
     New York City Lesbian & Gay Community Services Center
     PFLAG - Brooklyn
     PFLAG - Queens
     Pride Senior Network
     Senior Action in a Gay Environment (SAGE)
     SAGE/Queens
     Stonewall Democratic Club

Greater New York

     GayBuffalo Online
     Gay Officers Action League (GOAL) of New York State
     Gay Pride Rockland
     Gay Rochester Online
     Greater Utica Lambda Fellowship (GULF)
     Help Fight AIDS.COM
     Lesbian and Gay Law Association of Greater New York
     Prism: The Gay & Lesbian Concerns Group of Northern New York
     Rochester Come Out and Play
     Syracuse Pride
     Upstate NY Gay and Lesbian Intercollegiate Network

Long Island

     AIDS Walk Long Island
     BiasHELP of Long Island
     CERF-PAC (Citizens for Equal Rights)
     Community House of Long Island
     Dignity Suffolk
     Knickerbocker Sailing Association
     Long Island Association for AIDS Care
     Long Island Progressive Coalition
     Long Island Rainbow Connection TV Show
     Long Island Ravens MC
     Long Island Pride Parade Committee
     Out in LI
     P-FLAG - Long Island
     SILK - Sharing in Lesbian Kinship

National

     ACLU Lesbian & Gay Rights Project
     ASTRAEA: National Lesbian Action Foundation
     The Body: A Multimedia AIDS and HIV Information Resource
     Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD)
     Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund
     Human Rights Campaign
     International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission
     LEGAL International: An International Federation of Lesbian & Gay Law
Enforcement Groups
     Lesbian & Gay Immigration Rights Task Force
     Lesbian.com
     Log Cabin Republicans
     National Center for Lesbian Rights
     National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF)
     The National Latina/o Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender
Organization (LLEGÓ)
     Pride At Work
     Ruralgay.com
     Servicemembers Legal Defense Network
     Queer Resource Directory

Transgender Resources

     GenderPAC
     International Foundation for Gender Education
     NYAGRA: New York Association for Gender Rights Advocacy

Political

     Savvy Voter.org
     People for the American Way
     Project Vote Smart