But before they could carry out the idea, conservative talk show host Lars Larson caught wind of the plan. In turn, the local loudmouth mobilized his squad of listeners and followers, who flooded the school's administration with seething phone calls. Many calls were nasty, abusive, and vulgar, according to employees of the school. So many of Larson's followers called that the antiquated phone system was effectively shut down. Parents with legitimate concerns were unable to reach the school. One teacher said she had to call 20 times before finally reaching a school operator.
Cleveland has long been one of the city's more progressive high schools, sponsoring supportive programs for minority students--but those programs have also drawn the ire of the conservative right. During the fight over Ballot Measure 9 four years ago, three teachers at Cleveland organized anti-gay protests and targeted the school. Kary Aloveah, a teacher at Cleveland for five years and an advisor to SMAC, feels those aggressive tactics have chilled some of the school's enthusiasm for sponsoring innovative and progressive programs. Aloveah also suspects that one of those anti-gay teachers may have told Larson about their movie screening idea.
After the barrage of calls, Aloveah was called into the principal's office. She was told the school's policy forbids R-rated films. (Aloveah says that teachers commonly show R-rated movies in class, editing out any steamy or salacious scenes.) The administration also worried the screening would draw protesters and potential scuffles.
"We're not showing Queer As Folk," said Aloveah. "There's not even sex in Hedwig." Even so, the screening, scheduled for last Friday, was cancelled. [The Mercury will be holding a queer movie night, featuring Hedwig, on Monday June 7th at Pacific Switchboard, 4637 N. Albina, 8 pm, All Ages. ]
"The students felt sick to their stomachs, the way they were being treated," said Aloveah. But she went on to explain that if the conservative right is choosing to pick on a group of a dozen or so teenagers, they must be pretty hard up.
"It is a sign of the times. It means that these people know they are losing." Aloveah added, "They're going to single schools out because education is dangerous--it allows people to think freely."
With a court decision over same-sex marriages in Multnomah County still pending, the fight over gay and lesbian civil rights has splintered into several different fronts in Oregon. Just as the small squabble over Hedwig was brewing at Cleveland High, the Oregon Supreme Court approved the title for a ballot measure opposing same-sex marriages. Approving the measure's title allows supporters to begin gathering signatures.
The ballot measure hopes to amend the state's constitution and define marriage as existing only between a man and a woman. The Supreme Court rejected an argument that the ballot should also include language explaining how the initiative would limit the constitution's equal protection clause. Supporters have until July 2nd--an almost impossibly short period of time--to gather the requisite 100,000 signatures in order to qualify for November's ballot.
At the same time, Oregon House of Representative Speaker Karen Minnis said the state legislature is not planning to discuss same-sex marriages in their upcoming special session. Even though Judge Frank Bearden urged the state legislature to consider the matter, they plan to use the session to straighten out budgetary woes. If the legislature does not consider this issue within 90 days of convening, as explained in Bearden's ruling, Multnomah County will be allowed to resume issuing same-sex marriage licenses.