Originally published on Advocate.com October 29 2003 12:00 AM ET
Of the 17 magazines examined by the far-right Virginia group Valley Family Forum during a meeting with the Harrisonburg newspaper Daily News-Record, two were deemed especially offensive: The Advocate and Girlfriends, a magazine that focuses on lesbian culture and politics. "Those I find more offensive than the others," group member Kim Sandum told the News-Record. The magazines attempt to "normalize homosexuality," she added. The forum's director, Dean Welty, said the aversion to homosexual literature goes along with the forum's belief in the "sanctity of marriage."
Welty's group would like to see The Advocate and Girlfriends, along with a dozen or so other magazines, including Rolling Stone, Cosmopolitan, and Marie Claire, taken off bookshelves in Virginia. Those magazines didn't pass muster when placed before seven members of the Family Forum, which is pushing to establish "standards of decency" in Harrisonburg and Rockingham counties. The forum said it represents 1,500 local families and has garnered 3,270-plus signatures for an antipornography petition it has taken to governing bodies in Harrisonburg and Rockingham as an illustration of widespread support for "running pornography out of town." The forum is pushing for ordinances that would outlaw porn shops, but it is also asking for stores that sell magazines to remove sexually oriented material from their shelves.
Welty suggested that Commonwealth's attorney Marsha Garst could create a committee to develop community standards of decency. Garst responded by pointing out that a court would have to determine if something is offensive. A committee of people could make suggestions to the city council or county board of supervisors on what is indecent, she said, but it can't declare something obscene. If Garst were to form a committee, she said, she would advertise it in the media and select members by lottery.