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Lesbian College Student Bullied by Anti-Gay Professor in Class

17 Oct

Christina Santiago

A lesbian student at Indiana University in Pennsylvania was verbally attacked by her professor due to her sexuality. Christina Santiago, a student at the university’s Eberly College of Business Information and Technology was in class when the discussion turned to homosexuality.

The unidentified professor then took it upon herself to go on a diatribe stating “homosexuals are disgusting, unnatural and abnormal.” When Santiago raised her hand and identified herself as a lesbian, she asked the professor if she was referring to students like herself. The professor responded “Yes, God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Adam.”

Students on the campus have started to rally in support of tolerance and the school and teacher’s unions have yet to comment on the matter, merely stating that they are investigating the situation.

One must wonder firstly how a moral discussion of sexuality came up in a business class. Secondly, someone needs to tell the teacher that it’s “Adam & Steve,” not “Adam & Adam.”

Happily, it seems as though Christina has a great deal of support in coming forward with her story. Let’s hope the school and teacher’s union both take action on this serious case of discrimination and bullying.

Watch the news story here

Texas Teacher Harassed by “Christian” Student Claiming 1st Amendment Rights

28 Sep

Dakota Ary

Some of you may have heard about Dakota Ary, the Fort Worth high school student who claims he was suspended for expressing his religious beliefs. Ary claimed that his German teacher broached the topic of homosexuality and Christianity when Ary stated “I am a Christian and I believe that homosexuality is wrong.” Ary was then sent from the classroom and suspended for 3 days.

Up until today, the teacher in question had not been allowed to speak about the incident, but via the group LGBTQ S.A.V.E.S., a rather different story is being told. According to teacher Kristopher Franks, a group of four students, (of which Ary is one) has been harassing him based on their suspicion that he is gay. Franks’ version of the story follows:

On the particular day in which this incident occurred, Mr. Franks was opening class when the topic of Christianity in Germany was broached by one student, who asked what churches were there, another whether they read the Bible in English, etc. Franks asserts that the topic of homosexuality was not broached in any way, and that Ary‘s assertions to the contrary are entirely false. At this point, Ary declared, with a class audience, “Gays can’t be Christians; homosexuality is wrong,” looking directly at Mr. Franks. Franks says he understands and affirms students’ right to free speech, and that he is perfectly prepared to lead a respectful discussion on topics such as gay rights that allows for the assertion of opinions with which he disagrees. He has led such discussion in the past in his sociology classes. But in this case, hr feels the context makes it clear that this remark was made ad hominem, aimed specifically at him to devalue him and any information he might share on the topic of religion, on the basis of his perceived sexual orientation.

LGBTQ S.A.V.E.S. goes on to request assistance in making sure Franks’ side of the story is heard fully. The contact info will be at the end of this post. One can’t help but consider the case of another student who took it upon himself to spread his beliefs about homosexuality while still young, impressionable and naive. We’ve written about Ryan Miner here before and his crusade to keep a Gay Straight Alliance group from forming on his former college campus. Miner  said some rather vile things in the press and like former Senator Rick Santorum, he now finds himself with a Google problem.

When Miner has applied for jobs, he’s admittedly found a great deal of difficulty in getting hired due to his previous bigoted statements. In this day and age, let’s face it – unless you’re working at the National Organization for Marriage, you will have to work with some LGBT people – and who wants to hire someone who is a known bigot and will likely cause friction among their coworkers? Miner has recently issued an apology for the things he said, though in an effort to discover Miner’s earnestness, we requested he do more (i.e. volunteer for an LGBT charity, donate to LGBT causes, etc). Our requests for Miner to back-up his new found “respect” for the LGBT community have gone unanswered.

Please read the rest of the post from LGBTQ S.A.V.E.S and help in any way you can.

It would be very helpful, and a grace rendered to the threatened teacher, Mr. Franks, if you and other community members would write letters and/or email messages to the school board members, assistant superintendent, and Western Hills High School principal, calling on them to give a respectful, caring, and full hearing to Mr. Franks’ side of the story. Time is of the essence: He is being interrogated by an external investigations group today, though no specific allegations have yet been made against him by the ISD. I will post their names, phone numbers and email addresses below. Please keep all messages respectful and restrained, calling simply for a fair, respectful and caring hearing of Mr. Franks’ side of the story, unswayed by the public outcry generated by the slanted media coverage. Do not go into the speculations or reports of his side of the case; that is for him to present.

Walter Dansby
Interim Superintendent
Fort Worth ISD
Email: walter.dansby@fwisd.org
Phone: 817.871.2000

James Wellman
Principal
Western Hills High School
Fort Worth ISD
Email: james.wellman@fwisd.org
Phone: 817.815.6000

Ray Dickerson
President
Board of Education
Fort Worth ISD
Email: ray.Dickerson@fwisd.org

Carlos Vasquez
Board Member, District 1
Board of Education
Fort Worth ISD
Email: carlos.vasquez@fwisd.org

Norman Robbins
Board Member, District 7
Board of Education
Fort Worth ISD
Email: norman.robbins@fwisd.org

Is it Getting Better? 14-Year Old Gay Bullying Victim Lost to Suicide

20 Sep

Jamey Rodemeyer

This weekend, after years of bullying, and telling anyone who could listen about it – 14-year old Jamey Rodemeyer took his own life.

Since 5th grade, Jamey had been dealing with taunts from his classmates and routinely blogged and posted online about what he was going through. He would speak against bullying frequently and even call out his own school which he said was doing nothing about it. Just last week, Jamey wrote:

“No one in my school cares about preventing suicide, while you’re the ones calling me fag and tearing me down.”

His attentive parents frequently would speak to him about what he was going through and in recent months, it seemed as though either the bullying had subsided or that Jamey had learned how to brush it off. but then late Saturday night, Jamey posted two final comments to his Tumblr blog – the first saying how he wanted to see his Grandmother (who had recently died) and another was a message of thanks to Lady Gaga. The following is a line from Lady Gaga’s song, “The Queen”

According to Buffalo News, “He touched so many hearts, so many people,” said his mother, Tracy Rodemeyer, who met with some of his grief-stricken friends at Williamsville North on Monday. “I didn’t realize how many people he touched. He was the sweetest, kindest kid you’d ever know. He would give all his heart to you before he gave any to himself.”

Olivia Rinaldo, an eighth-grader at Heim Middle School, said she was drawn to his outwardly upbeat and extroverted personality. He made friends of the friendless, she said.

“He was always putting people first,” she said. “He always wanted other people to smile, even on the worst of his days.”

Jamey also had a Formspring account which allows anonymous comments to user’s posts. In recent months, some of those commenters said things including:

“JAMIE IS STUPID, GAY, FAT ANND UGLY. HE MUST DIE!”

“I wouldn’t care if you died. No one would. So just do it 🙂 It would make everyone WAY more happier!”

Jamey is another in a long line of teens who’ve succumbed to endless bullying and torture. This is not a rite of passage. Being tormented can make some stronger and cause them to come out of it and succeed in spite of their bullies. But some of us aren’t prepared for the kind of harassment young LGBT kids receive.

We need to be doing more.

Just a few months ago, young Jamey made this “It Gets Better” video. It’s very difficult to watch knowing what this child was going through when he made it. Despite his own circumstances – it was important to him that he help other kids feel better about themselves. Please watch and share Jamey’s story so that maybe one more kid won’t have to go through this.

Tennessee HS Student Threatened With Suspension for Attempting to Start GSA

9 Sep

Nathan Carroll

Tennessee High School Senior Nathan Carroll has been bullied most of his life for being gay. The openly-gay teen attends Sequoyah High School in Madisonville, TN and decided a Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) is needed at his school.

Nathan started a petition at his school to get support to start a GSA while kids opposing it started a similar petition. Despite Nathan’s efforts and the nearly 150 teens who’ve signed the petition, when he brought it to Principal Maurice Moser, he was threatened with suspension should he proceed in trying to form the GSA. Additionally, the Principal said that any students found with one of Nathan’s petitions would have the petition torn up and thrown away and that they be sent immediately to his office for further punishment.

Of course students are legally allowed to start the club should they find an adviser, which according to WATE Channel 6 News in Tennessee, is close to happening.

We put in a call today to Principal Moser and are awaiting a response as to why he would threaten to suspend students wanting to start this club.

UPDATE: Please see our follow up Exclusive: Tennessee High School Principal Responds

The school already hosts a student club called Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA). According to the FCA Website:

“Since 1954, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes has been challenging coaches and athletes on the professional, college, high school, junior high and youth levels to use the powerful medium of athletics to impact the world for Jesus Christ.”

No clubs recognizing any other faith or denomination can be found on the school’s website.

NJ Bridal Shop Denies Lesbian Bride Over ‘Illegal’ Wedding

18 Aug

Alix Genter is getting married next July. She lives in New Jersey and is going to get a civil union there, followed by a wedding in New York City (where marriage equality is now a reality).

Alix spoke to the Philadelphia Daily News all about her impending nuptials as she completed her PhD in history.

Last Saturday, Alix’s whole family joined her as she tried on her wedding dress at a store called “Here Comes the Bride” in Somers’ Point, NJ. Her mom and dad, her aunt, her cousin and two friends were there to cheer her on during this incredible time in her life by watching her don the dress and veil she thought she may never get to wear.

She tried on several gowns and finally found the one she loved – which if you’ve ever watched “Say Yes to the Dress” you’d know how trying a chore this can be. She asked Donna, the store manager if the designer might make the gown with a more lightweight fabric for her wedding next summer, and Donna agreed to look into it. It seemed to be a very happy smiling endeavor for all involved.

So naturally, Alix was floored to receive a call from Donna a few days later saying she would not be getting that dress. On the customer information sheet, Alix had crossed out the word “groom,” written in “partner” and put down her fiancee’s name. That didn’t sit well with Donna, who called Alix and told her she would not work with her because she is gay. She told her “There’s right. There’s wrong. And this is wrong.”

Donna went on in the voicemail to say that what Alix was doing was “illegal” and that the store would “not participate in any illegal actions.” The author of the article, Ronnie Polaneczky, called Donna back and they had quite the conversation.

“When I called Donna yesterday to get her side of the story, she both confirmed your version of events and accused you of “stirring up drama.” She said that your writing the word “partner” was basically a provocation, evidence of a need “to show that she’s different.”

“They get that way,” she told me.

By “they,” she meant women who were fed up with men because “men can be difficult,” and so now they “experiment” with female relationships because they’re tired of having men boss them around.

“She told me about a friend whose wife left him for another woman. And about a young family member who was molested by a same-sex adult male. And about a gay man who once plunged a knife into a chair in the restaurant where she worked. And – she finally lost me here – something about the Navy SEALs.”

According to New Jersey’s State Judiciary website, it is illegal to refuse service to someone based on their sexual orientation in that state. We’d like to refer Alix (and anyone else who has experienced discrimination there) to visit http://www.judiciary.state.nj.us/factsheets/fact_sexordis.pdf. Please read the passage below on places of public accomodation:

“Examples of places of public accommodation in which sexual orientation discrimination is not allowed include places generally open to the public where goods and services are provided. This includes restaurants, movie theaters, stores, camps, organizations, schools, professional offices (such as doctors and lawyers), and other facilities.”

Please check out the shop’s Yelp review page and feel free to let them know how you feel about discrimination. And make sure you read the original poignant article here.

 

Would You Let Your Kids Play With Kids of Gay & Lesbian Parents?

2 Aug

photo by Jamie McGonnigal, EqualityPhotography.com

After posting a story regarding the census reports from the St. Louis area, finding that many gay and lesbian couples were raising children there, STLToday has posed the question: “Would you allow your kids to play with the kids of gay couples?”

As we’ve seen in recent stories like that of a Colorado Catholic School, or a Catholic School in Hingham, MA, children of LGBT parents are often discriminated against. So the questioned posed by the St. Louis publication is not that far a leap.

And while most readers of this blog are either LGBT themselves or allies to the LGBT community, it’s questions like this which shed light on the bigotry and hatred we face on a daily basis. You’ll find most of the comments already posted at STLToday find the very question to be offensive.

Brad Wolf commented:

“I will not allow my children to play with children of bigots because bigotry is actually a learned trait.”

Donna Savage wrote:

“why not let them play together. homosex— is not contagious.”

And Cynthia Prior added:

“I have seen first hand that many people are afraid to let there children spend the night or hang out at the home of my grandson. I’m not sure why I just know there has been an affect. Perhaps they are not sure of what there children might be exposed to or they don’t know how to explain the difference in the parents.”

While the context of Cynthia’s post was not described, and we’re not sure if her grandson is gay or if his parents are a same-sex couple, it’s clear that whether people find the question offensive or not, it’s a legitimate question that should be addressed. One commenter even mentioned that since comments could not be made anonymously, those who are homophobic are less likely to respond truthfully. Could this be true?

How interesting to see moments like this, or like the National Organization for Marriage trying to hide the names of their major donors for fear they might be seen as the bigots they are? Those who discriminate against LGBT people are afraid of receiving threats, as Anti-Gay Senator Chuck Grassley said in the recent Senate DOMA hearings. He claimed one of his potential witnesses was afraid to testify because she feared for her and her family’s safety. I know very few LGBT people who have not felt threatened at some point – and with good cause considering the violence and murder that has been a part of our everyday lives for generations.

So…would you let your kids play with kids of gay and lesbian parents? And if you’re offended by the question, ask yourself why.

Miami-Dade Schools Increase Protections for LGBT Students, Staff

21 Jul

Save Dade's CJ Ortuno (Photo by Jamie McGonnigal, EqualityPhotography.com)

According to a press release from Talk About Equality friend, CJ Ortuno at SaveDade.org, Miami-Dade Schools have just announced increased protections for LGBT students. Three years after having passed the Jeffrey Johnston Stand Up for All Students Act,  which prohibits the bullying or harassment, including cyber bullying, of any public K-12 student or employee, Miami-Dade County Administration amended their policy to be explicitly inclusive of students who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT). The policy will now include “sexual orientation and gender identity” providing clearer protections for LGBT students.

“For the past year we’ve focused on strengthening Miami-Dade’s anti-bullying policy as a way to create a climate where bullying a student because of their real or perceived sexual orientation and/or gender identity is no longer tolerated,” said C.J. Ortuno, executive director of SAVE Dade. SAVE Dade worked with their partner the ACLU of Florida in developing the policy’s new language.

According to GLSEN’s 2009 National School Climate Survey 7,261 middle and high school students found that nearly 9 out of 10 LGBT students (84.6%) experienced harassment at school in the previous year. Miami-Dade County provides significant support through public school programs and nonprofit organizations for LGBT students.

“SAVE Dade’s contribution is to strengthen policies in hope that it provides some clarity for adults and students on the frontlines of bulling – if a teacher knows and understands that gay students are explicitly protected from bullying, it could result in a report that saves a young person’s life,” said Ortuno.

The new policy updates will go into effect Friday, July 22, 2011. An English version will be posted on the school board’s website at that time, with Spanish and Creole versions to follow.

The new policy language will read:

“Bullying, Harassment, Cyberbullying, and Discrimination (as referred to and defined herein) encompasses, but is not limited to, unwanted harm towards a student or employee based on or with regard to actual or perceived: sex, race, color, religion, national origin, age, disability (physical, mental, or educational), marital status, socio-economic background, ancestry, ethnicity, gender, gender identity or expression, linguistic preference, political beliefs, sexual orientation, or social/family background. This policy prohibits bullying or harassment of any student by any Board member, District employee, consultant, contractor, agent, visitor, volunteer, student, or other person in the school or outside of the school at school-sponsored events, on school buses, and at training facilities or training programs sponsored by the District.”

 

Bus Driver Orders Gay Couple to the Back of the Bus

12 Jul

Ari Gold (photo by Jamie McGonnigal, EqualityPhotography.com)

Many activists in the LGBT movement frequently hope and pray for a “Rosa Parks Moment.” By that, they mean a pivotal occurrence where an LGBT person stands up for themselves in a way that ignites a flame that won’t go out until we have our full equality. While this wasn’t exactly the Rosa Parks Moment some hope for, the irony is not to be missed.

According to the Village Voice, this weekend, openly gay performer Ari Gold claims to have been sitting in the front seat of a Short Line bus holding another man’s hand.

The bus driver reportedly told Ari that if they wanted to continue sitting together, they’d need to move to the back of the bus. Channeling Rosa Parks, Ari refused. The driver pulled the bus over and phoned for a state trooper. Upon the trooper’s arrival, the driver said that the couple was making him uncomfortable and he wanted them off the bus. Naturally, the trooper told the driver that nothing they were doing was illegal and he needed to continue the trip.

Ari announced to the bus what had occurred and the bus seemed displeased with the driver’s blatant homophobia. Ari will be filing charges.

We called ShortLine to find out if anything had been done about the situation and we were emailed this statement from George Grieve, President of Hudson Transit Lines:

I am the president of Hudson Transit Lines, Inc. which is the company known as Shortline. I wanted to assure you and your readers that we do not condone or endorse the actions taken by this one driver. His actions are not representative of the management of our Company. We will continue to investigate this incident until we are sure we have all the facts at which time we will take the appropriate disciplinary and remedial action. We apologize for the insensitive action of our driver and can assure you we will take the necessary steps to make sure this does not happen again.

Why Michele and Marcus Bachmann are so dangerous to the LGBT Community.

7 Jul

Marcus & Michelle Bachmann (Image via AP)

Michele Bachmann is a Minnesota Congresswoman and the sweetheart of the Tea Party. She has ignorantly riled up thousands of people with barrels of lies and propaganda against Obama and the Democratic party. Her actions have been at best irresponsible and at worst, criminal. All the while, she has smiled and made some of the most hysterical comments ever made in a political arena. Some of my favorites include:

“I find it interesting that it was back in the 1970s that the swine flu broke out then under another Democrat president Jimmy Carter. And I’m not blaming this on President Obama, I just think it’s an interesting coincidence.”

“I’m a foreign correspondent on enemy lines, and I try to let everyone back here in Minnesota know exactly the nefarious activities that are taking place in Washington.”

“But we also know that the very founders that wrote those documents worked tirelessly until slavery was no more in the United States.” .

“Pelosi is committed to her global warming fanatacism to the point where she has even said she is trying to save the planet. We all know someone did that 2,000 years ago.”

Reverend Bradlee Dean

But in all seriousness, Michele Bachmann scares me the most out of all these GOP candidates. Her own anti-gay views have been well-documented and her allies in the fight against us are some of the most violently homophobic people we have seen in this decade. Between her pal, Bradlee Dean (who has defended the execution of gay people, and has said about gay people – “On average they molest 117 people before they’re found out.”). Bachmann has repeatedly said that (abolishing) gay marriage is her “number one issue.” A few other homophobic quotes from the Congresswoman include:

“This is a very serious matter, because it is our children who are the prize for this community, they are specifically targeting our children.”

“It’s part of Satan I think to say that this is “gay.” It’s anything but “gay.”

“If you’re involved in the gay and lesbian lifestyle, it’s bondage. It is personal bondage, personal despair and personal enslavement.”

“Don’t misunderstand. I am not here bashing people who are homosexuals, who are lesbians, who are bisexual, who are transgender. We need to have profound compassion for people who are dealing with the very real issue of sexual dysfunction in their life and sexual identity disorders.”

These are just a few of the ignorant and hateful comments Mrs. Bachmann has made about LGBT people. But this is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the damage her and her husband are doing. Michele’s husband is “Dr.” Marcus Bachmann. Bachmann is no more a doctor than I am a Wimbledon contender. But unlike my false claims to be a tennis superstar, Bachmann’s claims to be a medical professional can kill people. Bachmann practices without a license.

According to his practice’s website, Bachmann dismisses any formal training because “Christ is the Almighty Counselor.” One might ask why Bachmann is getting Medicaid funds if some dead guy is doing all the work, and how Mrs. Bachmann can rail against Medicaid funds when those funds are clearly helping her keep her hair so coiffed, but I digress. On to the crux of the discussion – Bachmann’s clinic is receiving federal funds so that he can “cure homosexuality.”

Bachmann, who’s own sexuality has frequently come into question, practices “reparative therapy” on gay people. He has referred to gay people as “barbarians” that need to be “educated” and “disciplined.” This kind of therapy has been proven to be harmful and even lethal to people who enter into it. While I cannot seem to find any reports or  any of Bachmann’s patients who have come forward to discuss his harmful practices, the harm done by this type of “therapy,” has a long, bloody track record.

Through Mrs. Bachmann’s campaigning, this idea that gay people can somehow be “cured” will be given validation to those who deify her and hang on her every word. This will send more parents home to their gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender children to send them in to “reparative therapy,” where those children will learn to hate who they are – sometimes to the point of suicide.

***One more thing…the LGBT community has been calling out others quite a bit in the past two years for anti-LGBT bullying. The assumption that a child might be gay because of the way he or she acts or speaks or even walks, has caused some horrific retribution from classmates, teachers and even parents generation after generation. “Dr.” Marcus Bachmann’s sexuality is known only to him and whoever else he wants to know. Some are concerned that our assumptions about him based on the way he acts, speaks and walks might be hypocritical and might be a bad message to send young people – that he should be called “gay” simply because of his mannerisms.

It’s a tough discussion, because no, we absolutely should not make assumptions based on outdated stereotypes. But at the same time, Bachmann himself has inadvertently alluded to the fact he might be gay on more than one occasion by using the “we” pronoun instead of “they,” and with hints like that, coupled with the fact that he is a public figure potentially responsible for the suicide of LGBT people, his actions and possible hypocrisy must be spoken about openly.

Christian Group Member Throws Girl From Wheelchair at Hateful Counter-Protest

14 May

We believe that a good counter-protest is what free speech is all about. That is why Talk About Equality was one of the sponsors of last summer’s “The Big Commit” in Washington DC – a response to the National Organization for Marriage’s hateful anti-gay bus tour. The event was peaceful and featured several positive speakers from a wide variety of social and religious backgrounds. We were proud to take part.

Unfortunately, the hate that drives so many individuals to fight against gays and lesbians around the world, also fuels violence. In Adelaide, Australia today, 150 members of the LGBT community gathered to celebrate International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. During the rally which featured mock weddings and calls for equality, a Christian group decided that the peaceful protest needed to be broken-up.

The group screamed and chanted over the rally and then marched alongside the gay and lesbian group as they walked for equal rights. A young lesbian was pulled from her wheelchair and thrown to the ground during the march.

The hatred that we so frequently see in dark alleys or outside gay bars late at night as gay men and lesbians are beaten and killed, was in full view today in Australia. When the only way you can get your point across is by physically assaulting another human being, you clearly don’t have much of an argument. It’s sad when a rally to end homophobia only ends up proving just how needed a day like this is.