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William J. 'Pete' Knight
–Spacey Hero & Earthly Bigot

By Jack Nichols

senknight.jpg - 7.11 K California State Sen. William J. "Pete" Knight California state Senator William J. 'Pete' Knight has a gay son. His brother died of AIDS. He insists that by initiating anti-gay legislation —California's infamous Knight initiative— he's not striking out at his son or at anyone else. Ho hum, I say, he's just another bigot bum. His dismal record speaks pitifully for itself. Activists opposing his initiative have told the media: "He can't come to grips with the diversity of his own family. It's unfortunate he's injecting that into public policy."

Knight's gay son, David, says:

"I believe, based on my experience, that (my father's) is a blind, uncaring, uninformed, knee-jerk reaction to a subject about which he knows nothing and wants to know nothing, but which serves his political career. How can I say this? For one thing, he has never discussed my homosexuality with me, and I know that he never discussed the issue with his gay brother, who died of AIDS three years ago."

Thirty-two years ago--on October 3, 1967, Knight flew an X-15 space research rocket plane at a speed of 4,520 mph, the record still for fixed-wing aircraft.

On earth, however, this speed freak, aged 69, is now a Republican conservative in the California legislature. The retired colonel has turned his face away from the promises of the future and is busily promoting an old-fashioned and divisive racist, sexist society.

Many retired colonels—the most rabidly conservative Americans, according to recent studies— must remain content to write crank letters to their local papers. But Knight is positioned—in the 17th Senate District-- to turn his ugly prejudices into state law.

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On his office wall in Sacramento, according to observers, Knight proudly displays his award from The National Rifle Association, given, it is said, because he favors the carrying of concealed weapons, an extremist's position dear to the heart of NRA's homophobic headman, Charlton Heston.

Knight believes, in typical cynical conservative fashion, that not only California, but the nation itself is "headed downhill". He clearly thinks that preventing same-sex marriages will effectively reverse this dour decline he laments.

In 1993, Knight was forced to make a public apology after he'd distributed a racist poem making fun of Latino immigrants. His district, decidedly conservative, seemed not to mind however, so that his behavior posed no threat to his unfortunate Senate perch.

San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, who was then Assembly Speaker, let Knight comfortably off the hook by saying he didn't consider him "an evil person." San Francisco's gay voters may wish to recall this comment as they consider choosing in November's Mayoral elections between party hack Brown and Tom Ammiano, the city's openly-gay Board of Supervisors president.

gaycake.gif - 23.50 K Knight's name would hardly spark comment in circles outside California if it were not that he's sponsoring a March ballot initiative to bar California's recognition of same-sex marriages.

Mike Marshall, leading a campaign against the Knight initiative says: "Obviously in his career prior to becoming a politician, he was a true American hero in many respects. It's a shame that in his second career, he's undermining that so much with his misguided efforts to denigrate the gay and lesbian community."

Heroism is in the eye of the beholder. What seems courageous to onlookers is usually just par for the course to a so-called hero. Is Knight an exemplar for today's youth? Not, I'd hope, unless one wants one's kids carrying concealed guns, discriminating against gays and Latino immigrants and traveling at 4,520 mph.

Knight's Anti-Gay Politics

California law already defines "marriage" as a union between a man and a woman. Knight, however, fears that some other state, Vermont or Hawaii, perhaps, may legalize same sex unions and that California would, in turn, have to recognize those relationships.

He says he wants "to maintain the status quo of the family unit as the basic unit of society. ... A man brings certain characteristics to the unit; a woman brings certain characteristics to the unit; and that combined, we know, is the best possible environment to raise kids."

Openly gay Santa Monica Democrat Assemblywoman, Sheila Kuehl says:

"For some reason, not only the author of this initiative, Pete Knight, but a number of other right-wing Republicans seem to be hell-bent on simply discriminating without any recognition of the fact that these relationships are just as devoted, are just as much about love, and are just as much about family as heterosexual relationships."
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Sheila Kuehl

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