President Barack Obama wasn't the only one celebrating a victory in D.C. last weekend. The Illinois-based Americans for the Truth About Homosexuality (AFTAH) was touting the group's success in managing to shut down an ancillary event to the Mid-Atlantic Leather Weekend, held Jan. 16 to 18.
''When orgy organizers are furious at the triumph of decency and public health over their perversion plans, we at Americans for Truth are very happy,'' reads a statement on the AFTAH Web site. ''This is a great victory for truth, decency and public health! Yes, the good guys win one for a change.''
The orgy AFTAH shut down was the ''Obama Inauguration Pig Sex Orgy,'' planned for conference rooms in the Doubletree Hotel Washington, which also housed a block of MAL registrants beyond the host hotel, the Washington Plaza on Thomas Circle. While not an official MAL event in any way, the sex party was organized by Fort Troff, an Atlanta-based retailer of sexual accoutrement geared to gay men, and a major vendor at MAL.
Though Metro Weekly was unable to get a comment from Fort Troff by deadline, Fort Troff management did post a statement appearing on the Pam's House Blend blog reading, in part, ''To say that I am pissed would be an understatement. We have a right to privacy and sexual freedom. I appreciate the efforts of the Centaurs in helping us set this up and fight the cancellation. I want to apologize...for having to disappoint you at the 11th hour.''
While the AFTAH claim that hotel workers cleaning after the party could be endangered by biological material may seem specious, considering that hotel workers also clean the hotel's private rooms and public restrooms, it may have been the quasi-public conference-room setting that worked against the party -- along with all the messages leveled at Doubletree and parent company Hilton Hotels.
Dr. Larry Barat, a public health physician, advocate for sexual freedom, and a member of the Centaurs MC, the local group that presents the Mid-Atlantic Leather Weekend annually, says the cancellation was a disappointment during an otherwise successful weekend.
''This was an attack on the gay and lesbian community, and on sexual freedom by right-wing extremists,'' says Barat, emphasizing that while members of the Centaur MC did try to help connect Fort Troff to legal representation, the group took no official action, and that he speaks solely for himself and not on the Centaur's behalf on this issue. ''I think it's very disappointing in this day and age that people can still pressure other people to cancel private parties. This was to be consenting adults in a private environment.''
Barat is also disappointed in mainstream GLBT organizations for not being greater advocates of sexual freedom as expressed by members of the leather/fetish communities. ''It points out, once again, that there are other priorities in the gay community aside from marriage,'' says Barat. ''Sexual freedom has essentially been ignored by the leadership of the gay community, who have gone out of their way to desexualize gays and lesbians.''
Susan Wright, spokesperson for the Baltimore-based National Coalition for Sexual Freedom, says that while this attack might be new for D.C., the leather-fetish Folsom Street Fair in San Francisco and the International Mr. Leather event in Chicago are regular targets.
''There is a history of homosexual leather groups being the target of these religious, extremist groups,'' says Wright. ''In 2002, there was a series of attacks on heterosexual and homosexual BDSM conferences. These were actual educational conferences, not 'play parties.' AFTAH continues to attack IML, year after year.
''I think what we're going to start to see is BDSM leatherfolk as a stick to beat the gay leather community. [Homophobic groups] need to keep the sensationalism going to attract their own base, to raise money. 'Oh my gosh, look at this play party!'''