Attempts to legally deny the civil and political rights of homosexuals in this country have been introduced sporadically in recent years. One such initiative, the 1977 Dade County, Florida referendum--which made housing discrimination against homosexuals lawful--gained considerable national attention. Less visible, but with potentially broader impact, are the efforts to limit certain rights of homosexuals through the Family Protection Act (FPA), now pending in Congress.
For some time now, the political forces of the New Right have made "family" an umbrella code word to cover their entire social, economic, and even military agenda. Since the election of Ronald Reagan, conservative organizing on the family issue has come to focus on the FPA, which the Christian Right considers the centerpiece of its political program.
The FPA is not nearly as innocuous as its title might suggest. Like most right-wing rhetoric on the subject, it is designed to appeal to the genuine and justified fears of parents in a time of declining moral standards and increasing fragmentation of families. But the proposed law's primary impact on families would be to legally enforce hierarchical sex-role definitions and to deny support and assistance to many low-income families in crisis situations.
One of the more dangerous provisions of the FPA would prohibit the use of federal education funds for classroom materials that depict male and female social roles in ways that don't reflect "the American way of life as it has been historically understood." This would turn back the clock on many of the attempts that have been made to free the next generation of women and men from oppressive expectations and restrictions on the basis of sex.