May 03, 2012

Jamestown, N.Y. Loves Lucy, But It Doesn't Necessarily Love Gays

Like many rustbelt towns, struggling little Jamestown, N.Y. puts its hopes for a brighter economic future on its ability to draw tourists to sample its charms. One of those charms, which already draws many fun-loving tourists, happens to be a museum and arts center celebrating hometown girl, comedienne, and gay icon Lucille Ball.

Local residents have never seemed too bothered by the fact that their beloved Lucy, when asked about gay rights in a 1980 People interview, said, "It's perfectly all right with me. Some of the most gifted people I've ever met or read about are homosexual. How can you knock it?"

But when their openly gay City Council President, Greg Rabb, recently suggested that Jamestown promote itself as a destination for same-sex couples from other states seeking to get married in New York now that it's legal there, they weren't so amused, even if it might bring in more tourist dollars. In fact, the local newspaper published an editorial criticizing the idea, then posted a slew of ugly letters and comments from readers attacking LGBT people, the council president, and his revenue-generating idea. Mr. Rabb even starting receiving threats.

How's that for charm and a Lucy-inspired sense of humor?

Fortunately, many good people in the community rose up and held a powerful anti-hate rally to let it be known that Jamestown not only would not succumb to the whims of right-wing bigots but would in fact be a welcoming and fun place for all -- kooky, lovable redheads as well as LGBT people and their families, friends, and allies!

So if you're ever in the area, stop by and see the many charms that this beautiful little city has to offer, especially its increasingly visible and vocal LGBT community. And by all means let locals know that your tourist dollars aren't just green: they're pink, red, and all the wonderful colors of the rainbow.