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Well, whaddya know? I find myself in the middle of a roiling, angry, often profanity-laced brouhaha. It wasn’t my intention – far from it – but I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.

Stupid me. In my column here last week I dared to voice my opinion about the continuing wild demonstrations by hordes of homosexual activists in front of Catholic, Mormon and African-American protestant churches. I had the highly politically incorrect effrontery to object to the uncivil disturbances still raging, like pouring into a 5,000-member Michigan church on Sunday morning, showering condoms on and frightening the peaceful congregants who were trying to worship.

And yes, I confessed to being deeply disturbed by the announced plans of “gay rights” leaders to find out the names of every California voter who contributed even $100 to the pro-traditional marriage Proposition 8 – plans aiming to harass, threaten, boycott and otherwise punish these thousands of citizens who had simply supported and participated in the democratic process called voting. This is a gangster extortion tactic – not democracy. It’s criminal.

Though the opponents of Prop 8 had spent $40 million trying to defeat it, they were seething about the $30 million spent supporting it, most of it given by church members personally, not by the church organizations.

Attorney General Jerry Brown had caused the measure to be worded as intending “to deprive same-sex couples the right to marry” – not the more appropriate “to preserve and define marriage as between one man and one woman.” The purpose of Prop 8 was not to deprive a group of people of something that historically has never existed – but simply to preserve the hallowed institution of marriage as historically it has always been.

Since it is patently obvious that every one of the militant demonstrators is the product of a heterosexual union – between a man and a woman, most likely in a traditional marriage – it seemed especially heinous to me that they were calling supporters and defenders of that sacred institution “bigots” and “haters” and far, far worse. In effect, it seems to me, they’re cursing the very nest they came out of!

So I spoke out. I drew a comparison between the violence that killed almost 200 innocent people in Mumbai, perpetrated by jihadists trained to hate and kill indiscriminately, and the turbulent, abusive mob events in our streets and in front of our churches. If you read the column, you’ll see that I carefully stated. “Oh, I know the homosexual ‘rights’ demonstrations haven’t reached the same level of violence, but I’m referring to the anger, the vehemence, the total disregard for law and order and the supposed rights of their fellow citizens. I’m referring to the intolerance, the hate seething in the words, faces, and actions of those who didn’t get their way in a democratic election, those who proclaim loudly that they will get their way, no matter what the electorate wants!”

My whole point, stated clearly, was that “hate is hate, no matter where it erupts. And by its very nature, if it’s not held in check, it will escalate into acts vile, violent and destructive.” If I’m wrong about that, show me. Of course, mild-mannered and always fair Keith Olbermann on MSNBC quoted me accurately right up to the point where I stated I knew U.S. violence hadn’t reached the same level as Mumbai – and then excoriated and misrepresented me as if I’d said they were the same thing.

I need to say right here, honestly and unashamedly – I love gays. I always have, always will. I have proved it, over and over.

I met my first homosexual friend while I was in high school. He was a Navy veteran who had come back to finish his schooling. He put his hand on my thigh while we were parked at a fast food drive in. I was a cow milker with a vise-like grip, and after I nearly squeezed his wrist off, letting him know he had the wrong guy, he said, “I guess you’ll tell everybody, and I’ll get kicked out of school.” I assured him I wouldn’t, and I told nobody. I really felt empathy for him, because he obviously was not a happy man.

I’ve been in the entertainment business for over 50 years now, and I’ve had many dear and close friends, guys (and some gals) I have loved who were practicing homosexuals. How could I not? We forged real friendships, never strained or awkward. We each knew the other’s perspectives and respected them. Every one of them can tell you that I’ve never condemned or made them uncomfortable, in my home or theirs, though they knew I couldn’t approve their sexual practices. So what? We were friends, and we could be honest with each other.

Years ago, I sat by the bed of one of my closest friends as he lay dying in a VA hospital. AIDS didn’t have a name yet, but that’s what was killing him. His teeth had fallen out; he had no immune system left. We prayed together, and I saw him off to heaven. I loved Roger.

Later (you may be surprised to learn), I really went out on a limb and wrote two books, about and with homosexual friends. The first was “Joy: A Homosexual’s Fulfillment,” and the second “Coming Out: True Stories of the Gay Exodus.” They were written with a longtime lesbian, a former very promiscuous male homosexual and with a transsexual man who had emasculated himself in an effort to be a woman. They’d been down the whole road and back again, and they told me their stories and how they’d each been able to leave the homosexual lifestyle. This was not expedient for me as an entertainer, but I did it out of real love for gays. I do care.

I prayed with Rock Hudson and placed my hands on his bony chest, anointing him with oil, right at the end of his life. He couldn’t speak because of the lesions in his throat, but the grateful glow in his eyes told me all I needed to know. There was love between us – and I saw him off to heaven, too. I know I’ll see him there again.

Me, homophobic? Ridiculous. I love my homosexual friends, but I detest these irresponsible street tactics that can and do lead to violence. Violence breeds more violence. But love – and respect, even through disagreement – can accomplish miracles.

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