Coretta Scott King famously once said that homophobia is like racism in that it dehumanizes the individual and denies people their basic dignity.

That definition perfectly fit the recent remarks by New York Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino. He says he doesn't want children "brainwashed into thinking that homosexuality" is acceptable. He has since apologized for his remarks.

But those comments send a message to any young person who may be struggling with their identity that there is something wrong with them; and to others -- who may share his view -- it says that it’s okay to bully, to stigmatize, and to act out against people because they are not as good as you.

Paladino’s remarks where grossly inappropriate and reckless, especially now, on the heals of the recent gay teen suicide cases and the horrific, blood curdling anti-gay adduction and hate crime against two teen age boys and a young man in the Bronx.

Instead, politicians ought to be take their cues from Chad Griffin, President of the American Foundation for Equal Rights, who recently said that we need to “begin the process of saying to the millions of people who are made to feel ostracized, besieged, bullied and ashamed of how God made them — be who you are, love who you love and marry who you wish to marry.”

If the Republican Party wants to be in charge of our government, as it may well be after the upcoming November elections, it needs to cut out the gay bashers and show some leadership on issues like the repeal of "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" and the enactment of simple workplace anti-discrimination protections for gays.

Richard Socarides is an attorney and former White House Special Assistant to President Clinton. 

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