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BULLY: The Only Thing That’s Changed is the Part in His Hair

11 May

When Mitt Romney was 18 years old, he was a bully. A story in the Washington Post goes into great detail about a time when a high school-aged Romney lead a screaming mob of students to chase, pin to the floor and then physically assault a fellow student they assumed to be gay. They took a pair of scissors and chopped off his hair after Romney observed “He can’t look like that. That’s wrong! Just look at him!”

We’ve heard this story all over the internet, on every news station and paper for the past few days. Romney has of course, brushed off the incident. “I participated in a lot of hijinks and pranks during high school, and some might have gone too far…” In another interview, Romney laughed through his responses when questioned on his participation in the anti-gay assault. He also found it funny when he was questioned about teasing a closeted gay student by responding “Atta Girl!” to the young man’s responses in the classroom. He impressively remembered the detail that he didn’t think of his fellow student as gay, but strangely couldn’t remember that time he chased him down and chopped off all his hair.

Those defending Romney are parroting his responses, passing off what a kid today would get arrested for as silly teenage pranks. And it’s true. Kids do stupid things. As a friend put it today, “that’s why kids are tried in court as kids.” It certainly doesn’t excuse their behavior, but we have a cultural understanding that growing up means maturing and evolving in your views and your actions. The problem here is that Romney hasn’t evolved. His bullying of gay people has continued well-into his adulthood. He may not be leading mobs to assault defenseless teenagers, but he’s certainly working to make sure we remain pinned to the floor, the scissors posed just next to our faces.

As Governor of Massachusetts, Romney had to make some compromises. On several occasions, he purported to support the LGBT community including the endorsement of an LGBT Youth Rally on Boston Common, his support of Gay Pride (which his campaign has thoroughly denied despite the evidence), and a declaration of support for full federal equality for gays & lesbians when he ran for Senate against Ted Kennedy.

What we didn’t see then though, according to a 2006 Boston Globe article, was a virulently anti-gay Romney seeking to curtail the state’s initiatives to support LGBT youth:

“Angered that his name appeared on a press release touting a gay pride parade, Governor Mitt Romney moved yesterday to curtail the activities of a 14-year-old advisory commission on gay and lesbian youth.

The commission chairwoman, Kathleen M. Henry, said she was called yesterday by Beth Myers, the governor’s chief of staff, who told her that the governor planned to issue an executive order ”revoking our existence” and creating another youth commission whose purview would be all of the state’s youth, not just gays and lesbians. The commission would have all new members, she said.”

His anti-gay actions as governor of Massachusetts didn’t end there. He went on to veto funding for “intervention services and crisis housing for sexual violence in the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community,” according to a 2006 article in the Patriot Ledger. In 2003 & 2004, Romney also vetoed funding for suicide prevention and intervention efforts in the state, according to government documents.

As has also been recently discovered that Romney made a $10,000 contribution to the anti-gay hate group, National Organization for Marriage (NOM). The contribution was to aid NOM in their efforts to take marriage rights away from California citizens. Strangely enough, NOM failed to report the Governor’s contribution and an investigation has been demanded.

Romney also joked about the time his father shut down a factory in Michigan, leaving hundreds out of work.

Romney’s lack of respect for the life of those he sees beneath him doesn’t end with gay youth and those who wish to marry. Romney has also brushed off his actions as a dog owner when he strapped his Irish Setter’s crate to the roof of their station wagon for hours of driving. In 1983, the family drove from Boston to Ontario, Canada with the dog defacating all over himself and sitting in the crate for hours. The Romneys pulled over, hosed the dog off and put the now-wet Irish Setter back in the crate and continued their journey. When asked if he’d do it again, Romney laughed and responded “well, not with all the attention it’s received.”

Romney doesn’t mind actively harming others, whether it be pinning a person to the ground and assaulting him with scissors or  clearly taking the life of your own dog for granted. Romney’s responses to his horrific actions as both a young person and an adult clearly prove that he hasn’t grown up. Yes, kids can be horrible and people make mistakes, and we forgive them. But when a man who spends his entire life taking pleasure and even glee in seeing others suffer, we don’t excuse that. And we certainly don’t elect that man to be the most powerful bully person in the world.

Gap Shows Paul Ryan the Door

5 May

Congressman Paul Ryan

Earlier this week, an interesting item showed up on Queerty. It seems Gap, Inc., a longtime friend to the LGBT community was hosting a fundraising breakfast for anti-gay Congressman Paul Ryan.

Ryan is best known for his budget which would drastically cut medicare, social security, possibly double interest rates on student loans and allow for the 1% to divide the country’s wealth gap even further.

Ryan also carries an anti-LGBT voting record, including a vote to enshrine anti-gay discrimination in the US Constitution by prohibiting marriage equality and a vote to prohibit DC gay parents from adopting children.

While the fundraiser had been announced and the location was part of the invitation (Gap, Inc. Headquarters in San Francisco), we researched further and discovered a more interesting story.

When word first began getting around about the fundraiser, LGBT people started making calls to Gap, Inc. to complain about the company’s seeming endorsement of the anti-gay candidate. Considering most of my own wardrobe comes from Gap subsidiary, Banana Republic, it was also important to me.

On Friday afternoon, I contacted Gap, Inc. and was sent to literally dozens of different voicemail boxes. I left messages for two different people in their media relations department and then looked back to the invitation from the event, posted at San Francisco Chronicle. A contact number for Paul Ryan’s event planner was listed on the invite, so I thought I’d try them. I spoke to Kristin Hueter, who effusively spoke about the event as one of her firm’s most successful. She told me that they were no longer going to be using Gap, Inc. Headquarters because the event sold-out and had become far too large for that location. She assured me that it was no longer an issue, and it seemed that the story I was going to post had become a non-story.

An hour later, I received a call back from Edie Kissco from Gap, Inc. I’d left a lengthy message for her outlining what I hoped to speak with her about and the moment I answered the phone she said “Let me just start by saying that the Paul Ryan event will no longer be taking place at Gap, Inc. Edie went on and told me that Gap, Inc. had contacted the organizer and asked them to find a new location.” Another call from Gap, Inc. comes in, this time from  Stacy Rollo – also in media relations. I told her what Paul Ryan’s event planner relayed to me and she responded

“That is absolutely untrue…we did not know when the event was booked that it was a fundraiser for Congressman Ryan. Once we heard what this event would be, we immediately contacted the planners and asked them to find a different location.”

Gap’s Edie Kissco followed up via email:

“Gap Inc. is not hosting or organizing a fundraiser for Congressman Ryan.  The fundraiser is a private event, and the location of the event has been moved.  To say that Gap Inc. was or is hosting a fundraiser for Congressman Paul Ryan is factually incorrect.”

“Gap Inc. and our brands have a very strong record on LGBTQ community issues as shown by our perfect rating by the Human Rights Campaign annual Corporate Equality Index for seven years in a row.  In addition, we are proud of the “Be One” Gap brand ads featuring a gay couple sharing a Gap t-shirt. This ad is part of a “Be Your Own T” campaign which expresses different personalities, heritages, styles and passions.   (Incidentally, the men in the ad are a real couple).”

For your viewing pleasure, here’s the billboard unveiled yesterday in Los Angeles:

Gap’s “Be One” Campaign (photo by Chris Votaw)

If a bullet should enter my brain…

27 Nov

By now, most of us have seen the Academy Award-wining film, Milk. While Milk presented a much-untold history, the true impact of this film is now being measured by the vast numbers of young people who found the courage to come out after seeing it, and in conversations about historic LGBT contributions around the globe.

It was on this day, 33 years ago, former Republican San Francisco City Supervisor Dan White took a gun to City Hall. He climbed through a lower-level window to avoid metal detectors and proceeded to Mayor George Moscone’s office. White had resigned his office and went into Moscone’s office hoping to be re-appointed to the seat he’d resigned from. When Moscone refused, White shot and killed him. With extra ammunition, he proceeded to the office of Harvey Milk, the first openly-gay man to be elected to a major city office. White proceeded to shoot Milk 5 times – the final two shots had White pressing his gun directly at Milk’s skull according to the medical examiner.

Harvey Milk had pre-recorded a message after receiving several anti-gay death threats during his political career. The message said “If a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet shatter every closet door.” Dan White went on to be found guilty of voluntary manslaughter rather than first-degree murder. Despite White’s later statements that he was “on a mission” and  “wanted to kill four of them,” he was not found guilty of pre-meditating anything due to his poor diet.

White’s lawyers claimed that while usually a healthy man, White had been consuming many sugary foods, which led to his mental state. This became known as the “Twinkie Defense.” White went on to serve just 5 years of the very lenient 7 year sentence. 2 years later, White committed suicide by running a garden hose from the exhaust pipe to inside his car.

Following the guilty verdict, men and women rioted outside San Francisco City Hall. Hours after the riots had ended, Police made a retaliatory raid on the streets of the Castro District and the Elephant Walk Bar (now renamed ‘Harvey’s”). Two dozen arrests were made during that raid and the riots, and in the following weeks, after being called upon to apologize, gay leaders refused. The political leverage gained from these events led to the election of Mayor Dianne Feinstein. Feinstein then appointed a pro-gay chief of police who actively recruited gays into the city’s police force.

Dianne Feinstein, who is now a U.S. Senator, is leading the way for LGBT equality by sponsoring the “Respect for Marriage Act,” which would repeal the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

Michigan Anti-Bullying Law Set to Pass Without Religious Exemption

14 Nov

Sen. Gretchen Whitmer

By now, many of you have seen a video that made the rounds last week. It’s an emotional speech by Senator Gretchen Whitmer following the passage of Michigan’s “Matt’s Safe School Law.” The law is an anti-bullying law named after Matt Epling – a gay teen who committed suicide in 2002 after unbearable anti-gay bullying.

Republicans in the Michigan Senate finally agreed to vote for the bill after a special addition was made by Republican Senator Rick Jones allowing bullying so long as it was based on religious or moral convictions. So as long as kids screamed “The Bible says it’s okay to beat the crap out of you for being gay,” bullying was still cool.

Whitmer’s speech was incredible and brought tears to many eyes. She outlines the fact that the law that was passed, which included these religious and moral protections – if it were passed when Matt was still alive, it would not have saved him. The irony of “Matt’s Law” not being able to stop kids from bullying LGBT kids was apparently not lost on thousands of people who made calls this week to the Michigan Senate.

Late last week, the Michigan House passed the bill without the exemption and Senator Jones has agreed that he will vote for the House version of the bill without his religious and moral exemption. The bill is expected to pass and Michigan will no longer be one of the only 3 states without an anti-bullying law.


Houston Chronicle Blogger Blames Parents for Gay Kid’s Suicides

4 Nov

Texas Sparkle a.k.a. Kathleen McKinley

A Houston Chronicle blog titled “Texas Sparkle” and written by Kathleen McKinley states that parents of gay children are the cause when a child commits suicide. Apparently folks should be encouraging their children to continue hiding who they are when in school so as to not tempt potential bullies.

“Am I mad at the hateful mean kids who bully and tease these teens? You bet I am. But I am just as mad at the idiotic adults who force our adult views on kids, and pull them into our adult world long before they are mature enough to handle it. The 13 year old that killed himself told his Mom he was gay. She said she already knew and hugged him. She said she just assumed that everyone else would be as accepting as she was.”

“Why in the world would you give teenagers a REASON to tease you? Oh, yes, because the adults tell you to embrace who you are, the only problem? Kids that age are just discovering who they are. They really have no idea yet.  The adults tell you to “come out,” when what we should be telling them is that sex is for adults, and there is plenty of time for figuring out that later. Figure out yourself first. Focus on the kind of person you want to be, not the kind of person you want to sleep with.”

McKinley parrots the idea that children as young as 13 are too young to understand what being gay means. This of course throws out generations of studies which prove children much younger than that understand who they are attracted to. Additionally, like so many others in the anti-LGBT camp, she seems to enjoy defining LGBT relationships as purely sexual. She goes on to explain what her perfect world would be: (please note that includes no boy-boy or girl-girl relationships, merely pretty boy-ugly girl relationships)

“Listen, in my perfect world, kids would be kind to one another, no matter what differences there are. Handsome guys would ask out not so pretty girls, and see the great people they really are. Cheerleaders would go out with the nerds because they admire their brains. No one would tease anyone else, and everyone would be friends. BUT THAT ISN’T THE REAL WORLD!”

She attacks Gay Straight Alliances being formed in high schools, which has been proven to reduce bullying and help students build important friendships and connections they will hold on to through much of their adult lives.

“The 15 year old who committed suicide had started a “Rainbow Club” at his high school. Was there NO ADULT anywhere that could have said that maybe that isn’t such a good idea? Oh, no. Because that would be politically incorrect. Good grief. The idea of a high school club based on who you want to sleep with is absurd to begin with.”

And finally, she blames LGBT youth suicides on the “It Will Get Better” Campaign…assuming she means the “It Gets Better” Campaign, she’s clearly missed the point.

These kids were sold a bill of goods by people who thought they were being kind. The “It will get better” campaign just didn’t think it through. They didn’t think about the fact that kids are different from adults. They handle things differently. They react differently. Why? BECAUSE THEY ARE KIDS. You can grumble all day long how unfair it is that straight teens can be straight in high school, and gay kids can’t, but life is unfair. Isn’t the price they are paying too high?? Is it so much to ask them to stand at the door of adulthood before they “come out” publically? Because it may save their life.

Let’s let kids be kids, for God’s sake. Remember the gay young boy’s last message said, “How do you know it will get better?” He was a KID! Kids can’t see  around the corner. They just aren’t mature enough yet. They don’t see it getting better no matter how many times Lady Ga Ga says it will. So, enough with our politically correct campaigns aimed at kids.

It’s killing them.

I cannot help but wonder how old “Texas Sparkle” was when she lost her virginity or first realized she had a crush on a boy? I wonder how she’d feel if someone told her that it was wrong to like boys and that she had to hide the fact that she was attracted to them? Would it be the person telling her to suppress her feelings that caused her grief or would she blame the person who told her she should be able to express herself the way she wanted to and love the kind of person she felt attracted to? I’m shocked she went so far as to say her perfect world included nerd-cheerleader and hunk-ugly girl relationships – it’s not what she seems to be advocating in the rest of her article.

If you read through the comments section, you’ll notice she responds to nearly everything and contradicts herself frequently – at times saying she isn’t encouraging kids to stay in the closet, but then saying it’s okay to avoid the bullying. She’s also posted an update after Gawker posted her piece. She defends her bigotry further by saying she has stood up for GOProud (a Conservative gay group that has proven itself to be hateful towards lesbians and trans people). If not for the grammatical errors that only a Tea Partier could respect, one might be concerned that this is a person who has anyone reading what she writes.

TN Pastor Who Ordered Assault on Gay Son, Now Facing Theft Charges

7 Oct

Remember that Tennessee pastor we told you about earlier this week? The one who ordered his deacons to assault his own gay son when he and his partner tried to come to church?

Seems like he’s in the news again. According to local ABC affiliate, WBBJ:

According to Trenton police, they recently arrested Pastor Jerry Pittman, of Fruitland’s Grace Fellowship Church, on charges of stealing from a local business.

“It’s hard enough nowadays to trust people and I just can’t believe that a pastor would even steal anything,” said Trenton resident Hayley Gordon.

Police arrested the 52-year-old on September 21, after his estranged wife told them she had heard from co-workers that he had been stealing from her business.

“Our investigation into the incident that was reported showed that he and another gentleman did scrap copper at a scrap yard here in Trenton,” Lt. James Wilson said.

Investigators said he scrapped the copper at least three different times since August. It was hundreds of pounds, and worth more than $1,000.

“It was quite a bit that they scrapped,” Wilson said.

And, shockingly enough, this “Christian” man has been in trouble with the law before:

This actually is not the first time Pittman has been arrested. Police said he was arrested back in 2006 for a simple assault charge.

“It was over an incident where the daughter and the boyfriend had a joint child,” Wilson said. “There were some accusations involving the father of the child, which was the boyfriend, and he confronted the father of his grandchild at a local grocery store.”

One would think that parishioners would prefer a non-criminal to be leading their church.

UPDATE: Principal Assaults Pro-Gay Student, School District Lies to Protect Him

5 Oct

Sequoya HS Senior Chris Sigler

Yesterday, we shared the story of Sequoya High School senior Chris Sigler who wore a T-shirt with the words “GSA: I’ve got your back” to school and was assaulted by his principal for it. The Tennessee high school was in the news recently when that same principal threatened to suspend students for even discussing the proposed gay-straight alliance.

After my conversation with Principal Maurice Moser, Chris’ story was no surprise to me. Moser came across combative and angry when discussing his own discriminatory actions towards the GSA.

Last night, we were able to speak with a lawyer from the ACLU, who yesterday sent out a press release regarding the assault on Chris Sigler.  The ACLU is demanding that the school administration not only confirm that students’ first amendment rights are being protected, but that students also be allowed to form the GSA. Principal Moser had said to me in our conversation that the only reason the GSA is unable to form is because they cannot find a faculty sponsor. Moser has helped other clubs find sponsors in the past, but is unwilling to help the GSA.

We were told by the ACLU that there is a “disturbing trend” in this high school where several members of the faculty have expressed great interest in becoming the sponsor for the GSA. Then they have a meeting with Principal Moser to discuss and return from that meeting “suddenly uninterested.” We have reached out to some of these teachers for comment and to find out what happened in their meetings and will update you should they respond.

We were also able to speak to Chris Sigler’s mother, Linda last night who told us her version of what happened, which obviously agrees with the ACLU’s press release. She also wanted to reiterate the need for the GSA at this high school. She told me “there are at least 30 students who would like to be part of the club and in a small town, that’s a lot.”

While her son is straight, he has a sister Jessica who identifies as bisexual. “Chris saw how these kids were being treated and knew he had to stand up for them. That’s just the kind of kid he is.” Jessica was the only other person in the room when Moser attacked Chris. To date, the Sheriff has not interviewed Jessica. Yesterday, the Tennessee Equality Project started a petition for a fair investigation. That petition has since closed as Linda Sigler will be speaking with the sheriff today to find out why he hasn’t interviewed Jessica. In the meantime, they have created another petition calling for an investigation into the ongoing harassment of LGBT teens at Sequoya High School.

She went on to mention that the school currently houses at least two Christian student groups – the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and “Prayer Around the Flagpole,” where once a week, a pastor comes on to the school grounds and students are asked to go pray around the flagpole. Until very recently, there was also a prayer said before every football game.

While Christian student organizations may not initially be seen as something to compare the plight of the GSA to, according to a poster on the GSA’s facebook page, there are area Christian churches which are getting involved in the fight to stop them:

“Heard this from a friend in Madisonville: At Howard Chapel Church in Vonore, the pastor preached on QUEERS and said the ACLU may be getting involved with the GSA at Sequoyah and for no church members to sign on or be involved, etc.”

The Howard Chapel Church is less than a mile from the home of a lesbian couple that was burned to the ground allegedly by their neighbor. The word “QUEER” was spray painted in large black letters on their adjoining garage. To add insult to injury, the couple’s insurance company is refusing to pay them on their claim. GetEQUAL has started a petition to the insurance company here and to date, more than 50,000 have signed.

Local NBC affiliate, WBIR has more on the alleged assault including a statement from Tim Blankenship, Ass’t Director of Schools for Monroe County:

“The Monroe County School System is aware of the alleged accusations. We have received written statements from all eyewitnesses. Our documentation clearly indicates that there are always two sides to every story. We’ll gladly provide more information when it becomes available.”

The problem with this claim is that according to Linda Sigler, no statement was taken by the school from her daughter Jessica – the only eyewitness to the assault. I called Tim Blankenship directly and when I attempted to ask him about the discrepancy in his statement and the truth, he hung up on me.

It’s become very clear that the school district is trying to protect Principal Moser to the point that they are silencing students and reporting untruths to the media about what is actually happening in Sequoya High School’s halls. When the bullying of LGBT students is literally coming from the top-down, something needs to change.

We’ll have more on this as it comes in.


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