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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Help! I’ve Been Kidnapped by the Gay Mafia!

I don’t really understand why we need a specific bill to ban discrimination against gays in public schools--which is to say, what form of discrimination is currently legal and acceptable?--but of the two reasons to oppose the bill, one of them really boggles my mind.

The first concern, coming from libertarians and free speech advocates resonates heavily with me. If the bill’s language is too broadly drawn and it is harmful to legitimate free speech, then the bill is wrong. What, precisely, would constitute harassment? Are hurt feelings and mere suspicion enough to unleash the hounds of aggrievement? Or is there a higher bar that needs to be cleared?

The second concern, coming from people who fear the purple mafia, is one that I dismiss out of hand. “It will push the gay agenda.” Inasmuch as there is a gay agenda, in the main it is simply to gain the kind of acceptance and protection from harassment that every other citizen enjoys. While these folks might throw some specific instances of truly bizarre behavior and policy goals, the truth is that none of the gay people I know (strangely, the majority that I know count themselves as conservatives and libertarians, which is less a statement about typical gay political stances than it is about typical Friends of Zomby political stances) want to destroy marriage, push their sexuality on unsuspecting straight folks, or destroy the moral fabric of the country with tactical drag queen air strikes. They just want to go about their lives.

“It seems pretty consistent with Kevin Jennings being appointed in the Obama administration,” said Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, a nonprofit public interest law firm, referring to the controversial founder of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network who now serves as the assistant deputy secretary for the Department of Education’s Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools.

Jennings came under fire in September after acknowledging he should have better handled an incident in 1988 when he was a teacher and failed to report that a boy he believed was 15 years old told him he was having sex with an older man. (Since that time, the former student, referred to as “Brewster,” has revealed he was 16 years old, the age of consent in Massachusetts, at the time of the incident.)

“When [Jennings] founded GLSEN, his idea of a safe school was one that pushed a radical homosexual agenda by even encouraging first and second-graders to engage in homosexual activity,” Staver said. “So I think that’s the impetus behind this bill. We have an administration that wants to push a radical social agenda.”

We can debate some specifics, but I do not see a scary gay agenda that will tear apart the country.

That said, I generally oppose this kind of legislation because I don’t quite understand what it accomplishes. There are already laws against harassment and most schools are aggressive in dealing with harassment issues in the district. Boy, could I tell you some stories if I were allowed to tell you some stories. If children are not being protected from harassment by their teachers and their districts right now, it’s because individual teachers, schools, or districts aren’t doing their job.

Handle it at the local level and there is no need for more Federal government posturing.

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