Saturday, June 10, 2006

Pride and prejudice

Macy’s yanks gay display, blasted by both sides

By Kimberly Atkins
Boston Herald Reporter

Macy’s department store found itself mired in a fierce national debate between conservatives and gay activists when it bowed to complaints and removed part of a window display marking Boston Pride Week.

The Downtown Crossing store display featured two male mannequins - one wearing a gay pride rainbow flag around its waist - standing near a list of several planned Boston Pride events.

The display was designed by Macy’s with the approval of the Boston Pride Committee.

But the store yanked the mannequins from the window after MassResistance, the conservative group formerly named Article 8 Alliance which has also campaigned against sex education and gay-themed books in public schools, complained the display was offensive.

“They were male mannequins with enlarged breasts, and one was wearing a skirt,” said MassResistance president Brian Camenker, referring to the gay pride flag wrapped around one figure, cinched with a white belt. “It was really disgusting.”

Elina Kazan, New York-based spokeswoman for Macy’s, said the decision to pull the dummies, but leave the rest of the display, was an effort to strike a balance.

“We believe in diversity, and our customers are very important to us,” Kazan told the Herald, adding that displays supporting Pride Week in previous years did not use mannequins. “But (the display) did offend a few of our customers, and we had to reexamine it.”

That decision upset gay activists, and Mayor Thomas M. Menino, whose spokesman said was “disappointed that Macy’s would bow to this kind of pressure.”

“The mayor believed the window reflected the diversity of our city,” spokesman Seth Gitell said. “This entire episode flies in the face” of that.

Camenker posted pictures of the display on the conservative group’s blog and in an email sent to thousands, urging them to protest, and scores of people inundated Macy’s officials with complaints. Yesterday several Macy’s officials in New York and Boston were unreachable because their email and voicemail boxes were full.

Keri Autlia, vice president of the Boston Pride Committee, said the group was planning a formal response to the story. “In an ideal world, they would put it back up and apologize,” she said.

ACLU of Massachusetts spokeswoman Sarah Wunsch decried Macy’s for “succumbing to the bigotry” of a fringe anti-gay group.

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