BY DUNCAN OSBORNE | Following his success at getting a group opposed to Israeli government policies toward Palestinians banned from New York City’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community Center, porn impresario Michael Lucas is continuing to challenge the Center after a group he was scheduled to address there moved its meeting to his home.
“From this email it is very clear that the Center is lying when saying that they did not interfere by pressing GLYDSA to disinvite me,” Lucas wrote in a March 25 email to Gay City News, referring to a written message from the group that moved its meeting. “They absolutely did. This was the reason why GLYDSA moved their event.”
GLYDSA, the Gay and Lesbian Yeshiva Day School Alumni Association, an Orthodox Jewish group, had invited Lucas to its March 24 meeting to discuss how he “worked hard this past month to thwart the ‘Israeli Apartheid Week’ activities from taking place at the LGBT Center.”
While not alone, Lucas was the most visible opponent of allowing Siegebusters, the group that was banned, to hold a March 5 party at the Center. Some of the funds raised at the party would have gone to fund a boat to run the Israeli naval blockade of the Gaza Strip. Siegebusters had been meeting at the Center since August of 2010.
Lucas threatened to organize a donor boycott if Siegebusters was given space at the Center. Speaking at a March 13 town hall, Glennda Testone, the Center’s executive director, said Siegebusters was banned because the party was “an incredibly controversial and contentious event” and the group “was not LGBT-focused.”
Testone said, “The decision was absolutely made in good faith and it was not made in response to any one individual.”
Following that town hall meeting, GLYDSA, which also meets regularly at the Center, invited Lucas to speak. That was seen as a provocation by people who objected to the Siegebusters ban.
Exactly how GLYDSA came to move its event has become a point of contention, with the Center saying that the group made the decision on its own and then informed them. Lucas charged that the Center leaned on GLYDSA to move the event.
“The most disgusting facet of this whole situation is that the Center chose to go after this specific group of people,” Lucas wrote. “The Gay Center chose to put pressure on a group that deeply values their privacy and thusly would be easily intimidated. The Center knew this and that is precisely why they felt that they could steer them into not holding the meeting at the Center instead of encouraging them.”
In a March 23 email, GLYDSA told Gay City News, “As a small private group not looking for any publicity or controversy, we made the decision to move to a private location. The Center did not ask us to do this and we informed them of our decision today.”
Lucas later circulated a series of emails exchanged between GLYDSA and Steven Thrasher, a reporter at the Village Voice, in which the group wrote that Lucas’ “assessment of what happened” was “accurate.”
Asked by Gay City News if the Center asked GLYDSA to cancel its meeting, the group wrote, “[W]e were not asked to cancel or move our meeting… Yes, we were pressured to cancel Mr. Lucas. This was in addition to potential unwanted intrusions by outsiders, including the press. We made the decision to move away from any potential disruption for the benefit of our members who trust us to guard their privacy and confidentiality. As long-standing constituents and supporters of the Center, we thought it might also diffuse some of the tension there as well.”
Siegebusters’ supporters voiced dismay that yet another group was forced out of the Center. Sherry Wolf, a member of the group, told the Village Voice, “Our point has never been to silence those we disagree with, but to have a diversity of voices heard. People would have protested and challenged [Lucas’] racism, but not try to have him banned or anything like that.”