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Gays Protest Threats Made on Talk Show

Event: Radio program's host draws fire at Coming Out Day gathering in Laguna Beach. Hundreds rally to support closeted homosexuals.

October 13, 1997|STEVE CARNEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

LAGUNA BEACH — Waving rainbow banners and American flags, Orange County gays and lesbians celebrated National Coming Out Day on Sunday and protested what they said was a death threat made against them on a local radio show.

About 200 people at Main Beach held signs and waved at passing motorists, many of whom honked to show their support. The group stood across the street from a movie theater showing "In & Out," a coming-out comedy starring Kevin Kline.

The 90-minute gathering was designed to show support to closeted gays and lesbians. "You don't have to be ashamed. There are many of us out here who are living very happy, productive and Christian lives," said Bill LaPointe, one of the organizers and the publisher of The Blade, a local monthly gay newsmagazine.

But many participants--holding placards reading "Dispel Negative Stereotypes" and calling for "Responsible Rhetoric"--said they attended specifically to protest a radio message they fear will incite hate crimes.

On the Aug. 29 edition of "Crosstalk" on KBRT-AM (740), host Rich Agozino raised the issue of whether society should punish homosexuality according to biblical law, meaning capital punishment.

"When anyone starts to advocate our death, that's to be taken seriously," LaPointe said. "At first I said we should just write them off, but this went too far in advocating our death."

The Rev. Susan Sawyer-Hilty, pastor of the Resurrection Beach Metropolitan Community Church in Huntington Beach, said, "It makes me really angry."

"Jesus talks about love--love God and love your neighbor. To me, that's the only law God gives us to live by," said Sawyer-Hilty, who was at the gathering with her partner of three years, Kathy Sawyer-Hilty.

The pastor also emphasized standing up to and challenging attitudes such as Agozino's: "I think there's a danger in ignoring anyone and hoping it will go away. I think people did that with Hitler."

Grayce W. Webster, 85, of Laguna Beach came out during the ceremony Sunday but afterward said, "I was born out."

"I came down here to lend support," said Webster. She said she rarely attends such rallies--"I'm too old."--but after she heard Agozino's comments, "that really burned me up. I called him up, and I really told him what I thought."

She read from notes she had made before she spoke to him, starting her message with: "Who the hell do you think you are?"--and got saltier from there.

The Sunday event had few interruptions, police said. One van of hecklers yelled and cursed at the gathering late in the afternoon, but officers said they pulled it over a short distance away and arrested one occupant on an outstanding warrant.

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