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Jury Awards HUGE Settlement to Gay U Mich Student

16 Aug

Remember Andrew Shirvell? He’s the former Michigan Ass’t Attorney General who stalked University of Michigan student body president Chris Armstrong because he was openly gay.

We covered the whole controversy here, here, here and again here. This was a purely brilliant story. This guy had videotaped Armstrong at his home in the middle of the night, had a blog all about Armstrong and would show up and stage one-person rallies against Armstrong because he was gay. And brilliance happened:

Andrew Shirvell’s the bald, older one. Chris Armstrong is on the far right.

Well, it turns out Shirvell was using government time and resources to fund his little hate Chris Armstrong blog and was fired after an outcry from the LGBT blogosphere.

Shirvell’s writing, attacks and harassment was ENDLESS. Armstrong demanded an apology from Shirvell and said he would drop a pending harassment suit against Shirvell if he would only apologize for what he’d done. Shirvell refused.

Armstrong proceeded with his lawsuit seeking $25,000 in damages. A jury today found in favor of Armstrong and ordered Shirvell to pay him…wait for it…$4.5 MILLION!!! This is what happens in the court system when you spread vicious lies about gay people. This is hatred and this is what it was worth to a jury in Michigan.

A Belated Apology. Should We Accept?

17 Mar

Coming out was easily one of the best times of my life. One simple action filled my life with unexpected and wonderful clarity and honesty.  For the first time I was truly being honest with myself and those around me. It was a fresh and invigorating time for me and was very nearly ruined by a fellow student: Ryan Miner.

The very week that I began telling my colleagues and friends, brave students at Duquesne University were attempting to start the first gay straight alliance on our Catholic campus and one student, Miner, stood in their way.  He took to facebook, a brand new platform at the time, and lead the charge against the GSA with characteristic arrogance, filled our community with anti-gay animus, and even went so far as to say that gays were subhuman.

Ryan Miner almost single-handedly created a hostile and disrespectful atmosphere on our campus. Though he eventually lost, his comments helped me understand the stakes for LGBT people and provided the motivation for me to get in the game.

Now he has again taken to the internet seeking absolution:

“I did not measure my words; I did not think clearly. I made a statement in haste and words can sincerely have hurtful consequences, and that’s the message to students or anyone who uses the Internet,” Miner told Channel 4 Action News reporter Shannon Perrine in a Skype interview.

He believes it’s important to tell others to stand up for what you believe in — but to be careful about the words you use to do it.

“You have to have some principles behind you, and at that time, I just didn’t have it. It was immaturity and I’m profoundly sorry,” Miner said.

What you write on the internet lasts forever. Ryan Miner didn’t get it at the time, but now he’s starting to learn the hard way.  After being fired from one job and having difficulty finding others he is finding himself in a Rick Santorum situation (just google it).

Only Ryan knows what’s in his heart now. If he has come around and now regrets his statements, not just how he posted them, then I, as someone most directly affected by his remarks, am willing to forgive him.

But absolution wont come that easy.  He’s still paying for his mistakes, and rightly so. I think a demonstration of his commitment to making it right is in order. Spending a few hours volunteering at an LGBT youth center, making an It Gets Better video, or issuing a public statement about school bullying.

That, more than a surface attempt to fix his Google problem, would go a long way to making it right.

Being Gay Is Not A Choice, But Your College Is…

21 Jan

When I was searching for Colleges factoring in relative Gay-friendliness never occurred to me. As I’ve written before I had a decidedly mixed collegiate experience after coming out. I can’t say I attended an incredibly gay friendly University, it being an Urban Catholic University in Pittsburgh, but there were definite pockets of support. We even had a GSA, though it caused a major controversy.

Now it seems an increasing number of young people are factoring in campus LGBT friendliness when deciding where to go to college. According to the Gay and Lesbian Straight Education Network (GLSEN), in 2009 9 out of 10 LGBT Middle and High School students said they faced harassment. Coming from that environment a growing amount of students want to be sure they are going to have positive experiences at the next level. Recent incidents of Collegiate harassment and prominent stories of student suicides are adding to the concerns of students and parents:

The number of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students seeking a university that is “gay friendly” is increasing, driven by Web sites that rate schools on how supportive they are of gay students.“It’s definitely a phenomenon,” said Luigi Ferrer, the director of programs and grant development at Pridelines Youth Services, a Miami Shores, Fla., nonprofit where he works with Louis, a counselor. “Students are sometimes prioritizing [LGBT] resources even over the academic reputation of the school or the financial aid they can get.”

College still isn’t a guaranteed safe-haven, but some are better than others. Campus Pride has a ranking system, as does the Princeton Review, and it should be a factor in any young LGBT student’s search.  College can be a difficult and eye-opening experience, but it should be fun and give you the chance to grow and change.  It shouldn’t be harder because you are gay and colleges and universities have an important role to play in making sure that’s the case.  The ones that perform that function best for its students should be rewarded with our best and brightest young LGBT minds.

It’s all part of making sure this doesn’t happen anymore.

 

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