Cliff Gardner

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Larry Miller and homophobia

Larry Miller, the owner of the Utah Jazz, died recently after a horrific battle with Diabetes that resulted in both of his legs being amputated. It's important to recognize that he was a very good NBA owner. The Jazz had something like 13 fifty-plus win seasons during his tenure. Stockton to Malone, and now Williams to Boozer, made basketball great in Utah for a quarter-century.

However, it's also important to note Larry Miller's role in something else--a gay teen suicide epidemic. While I was typing that, a gay kid killed himself somewhere in the United States because he was persecuted by homophobic bigots. Suicide is the leading cause of death among gay teens. Consider this, from Larry Miller's Wikipedia page:

"On January 6, 2006, the film Brokeback Mountain was pulled from Miller's Megaplex 17 theater at the last minute after Miller learned from a radio reporter that the film featured a gay romance. Other R-rated films, such as the comedy Grandma's Boy and the violent horror film Hostel were still allowed to be shown. As a result, the business was accused of exhibiting bias against homosexuality. The cancellation brought international attention to the theater. The Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Community Center of Utah and other gay rights groups urged its members to avoid patronizing Miller's various businesses. Miller later explained the cancellation, saying that he was concerned about "getting away from the traditional families", what he called "a very dangerous thing." Miller noted that several individuals purchased automobiles from his dealerships as a form of support for the decision."

Clearly, Larry Miller is both powerful and not-okay with gay folks. In fact, his decision not to show "Brokeback Mountain" in his theatres clearly made him a leader in the fight to persecute homosexuals. It's not that gay and lesbian teens are just naturally more depressed and prone to taking their own lives--they're teased and harassed every day at schools, in locker rooms and at churches. Violence, and the threat of violence, are common. It's a terrible thing to live in fear every day of your life for who you are and for many kids, suicide seems like the only way out.

In the state of Utah, which I imagine isn't the most accepting for GLBT kids to begin with, hosting the movie "Brokeback Mountain" was a beautiful opportunity to show the straight community what it feels like to be gay, and to live with that fear. More importantly, though, it could have demonstrated to those terrified gay kids I mentioned that there's nothing wrong with who they are--that they're not sick, or broken, and that there are other people like them out there going through the exact same things. This would have saved lives.

Instead, Larry Miller chose to react like a cafeteria room full of 6th graders instead of a smart, civic-minded, "moral leader" that he claimed to be. I have no problem with people praising his ownership of the Utah Jazz. However, most articles haven't stopped there, instead choosing to trumpet his moral leadership and claim that he was a great man for the state of Utah. Larry Miller wasn't a great man. You're not a great man if you, as a pillar of your community, pursue a policy that causes teenagers to kill themselves.

I hope Out Magazine buys the Jazz.

2 Comments:

  • Hey Thom- I'd like to write an article for 2RR tomorrow about this post. Would you object to being linked to a potentially greater audience?

    By Blogger Brendan K, at 11:15 AM  

  • Sure, go ahead. Hope all is well!

    By Blogger T-Mac, at 11:48 AM  

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