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WWMD: What would Maggie do?… Arkansas school board member calls for LGBT kids to commit suicide

(Cross-posted on Waking Up Now.)

By Rob Tisinai

I want to know whether NOM’s Maggie Gallagher thinks Clint McCance should be fired. McCance is the Midland, Arkansas school board member who wrote on his Facebook page:

Seriously they want me to wear purple because five queers killed themselves. The only way im wearin it for them is if they all commit suicide. I cant believe the people of this world have gotten this stupid. We are honoring the fact that they sinned and killed thereselves because of their sin. REALLY PEOPLE.

No because being a fag doesn’t give you the right o ruin the rest of our lives. It you get easily offended by being caleld a fag then don’t tell anyone you are a fag. Keep that shit to yourself. I don’t care how people decide to live their lives. They don’t bother me if they keep it thereselves. It pisses me off though that we make special purple fag day for them. I like that fags can’t procreate. I also enjoy the fact that they often give each other AIDS and die. If you aren’t against it, you might as well be for it.

I would disown my kids if they were gay. They will not be welcome at my home or in my vicinity. I will absolutely run them off. Of course my kids will know better. My kids will have solid christian beliefs. See it infect everyone.

What does this have to do with Maggie? Just the other day she warned Australian conservatives that America is persecuting anti-gays:

We are already seeing the engine of state power being used to exclude traditional religious believers, especially from posts of cultural power…

It seems obvious that a man who celebrates — even hopes for — gay teen suicide has no business on a school board. On the other hand…

  • Would Maggie point out that Midland is public, taxpayer supported school district?
  • Would Maggie argue that firing McCance means the government is persecuting him for his religious beliefs?
  • Would Maggie say that kicking him off the school board is an example of “the engine of state power being used to exclude traditional religious believers, especially from posts of cultural power”?

So Maggie, tell us, do you think Clint McCance should be fired? If so, wouldn’t that violate all of NOM’s rhetoric?

And if not, Maggie, if not — then is there any religious behavior you wouldn’t excuse?

UPDATE BY EDEN: HRC just deployed this press release:

HRC to Arkansas School Board Hater: Resign or Face Investigation and Removal
HRC Sends Letter to Education Officials

WASHINGTON – The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, today once again called upon Clint McCance – a Midland School Board Member from Arkansas – to resign following an anti-gay tirade he unleashed on Facebook in response to national Spirit Day last week. Today, HRC also sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Education, the Arkansas Department of Education and the Midland School District calling for an immediate investigation into McCance’s conduct and to suspend him from office if he does not heed our call to resign. A Facebook page calling for McCance’s resignation has swelled over 17,000 “likes.”

The messages were first brought to HRC’s attention by R. Anthony Turner, a 1998 graduate of Midland High School. A PDF of the Facebook page with the message is at:

http://www.hrcbackstory.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/ClintMcCance-Facebook-image.pdf

Text of the letter from HRC President Joe Solmonese:

October 27, 2010

Dr. Tom W. Kimbrell
Arkansas Department of Education
Four Capitol Mall
Little Rock, AR 72201

Mr. Bryson Wood
President, Midland School Board
P.O. Box 630
741 Main Street
Pleasant Plains, AR 72568

Dear Dr. Kimbrell and Mr. Wood:

I am writing about the recent hateful anti-gay tirade by Midland School District Board Member Clint McCance on Facebook. Given the severity of his remarks and the position which he holds, we are demanding that your agencies immediately launch investigations into his conduct. Furthermore, we ask that Mr. McCance be suspended from his position immediately if he does not heed our call to resign.

No students should be subject to the kind of hate that came from Mr. McCance. All kids deserve better and that’s why it’s imperative for your agencies to act swiftly and with resolve.

The record of McCance’s conduct is clear. In response to national Spirit Day last Wednesday, an individual that guides the education of children took to Facebook and wrote: “Seriously they want me to wear purple because five queers committed suicide. The only way im wearin [sic] it for them is if they all commit suicide.” Unfortunately, his tirade did not end there. Screen captures of his Facebook postings can be found at: www.hrcbackstory.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/ClintMcCanceFacebookimage.pdf

You are no doubt aware of the letter sent to all school districts on Monday by the U.S. Department of Education informing them of their requirement under Title IX to protect all students from harassment, including harassment based on sexual orientation and gender identity. There is no doubt that Mr. McCance’s conduct is clearly at odds with this requirement. Mr. McCance’s comments also violate the Midland’s School District’s nondiscrimination policy, which reads: “The Midland School District is committed to having an academic and work environment in which all students and employees are treated with respect and dignity. Student achievement and amicable working relationships are best attained in an atmosphere of equal educational and employment opportunity that is free of discrimination.”

Students in the Midland School District, across Arkansas and America were put in harm’s way by Mr. McCance’s insidious remarks. These are exactly the kind of statements that will lead some kids to bully and others to continue a destructive pattern of self-loathing behavior. When an authority figure of Mr. McCance’s standing repudiates gay people, it sends a very powerful message that violence and/or discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people is acceptable. It also emotionally devastates those who are LGBT or may be struggling with their sexual orientation or gender identity. His words were not only inaccurate, they were also dangerous and you have a responsibility to act NOW.

We await your immediate response.

Sincerely,

Joe Solmonese
President

Cc: Russlynn Ali
Assistant Secretary, Office of Civil Rights
U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights
400 Maryland Ave SW
Washington DC 20202

Mr. Dean Stanley
Superintendant, Midland School District
P.O. Box 630
741 Main Street
Pleasant Plains, AR 72568

UPDATE BY ANDY: JoeMyGod has the latest updates

Update 1: Statement from the Arkansas Department of Education.

The Arkansas Department of Education strongly condemns remarks or attitudes of this kind and is dismayed to see that a school board official would post something of this insensitive nature on a public forum like Facebook. Because Mr. McCance is an elected official, the department has no means of dealing with him directly. However, the department does have staff who investigate matters of bullying in schools and we will monitor and quickly respond to any bullying of students that may occur because of this, as we have with other civil rights issues in the past.

Update 2: The Advocate reports that McCance may keep his job.

“In Arkansas law, the only way to recall a school board member is over a felony [committed by him or her] or absentee issues,” said Julie Johnson Thompson, the director of communications for the Arkansas Department of Education in Little Rock. Thompson says McCance, as an elected official, answers to voters, not Midland school district’s superintendent. “[The Arkansas Department of Education] doesn’t have any control over his job,” Thompson pointed out.

Update 3: MSNBC’s openly gay host Thomas Roberts covers the story.

114 Comments October 27, 2010

Gay teen suicides? Maggie Gallagher washes her hands

This is a must-read. Cross-posted by Rob at Waking Up Now. — Eden

by Rob Tisinai

[Maggie Gallagher has an editorial in the the NY Post in which she denies her battle against marriage equality has any effect on gay teen suicides. Let’s have a look. Maggie’s statements are in bold.]

Do I have blood on my hands?

Ooo, pick me, I know!

Major gay-rights groups are saying so. Each of us who opposes gay marriage, they say, is responsible for the terrible and tragic suicides of gay teens that recently hit the news.

I can’t speak for the major gay groups, but personally I’ve always made a distinction between people who earn 6-figure salaries by spreading lies about gays and lesbians and marriage, and the voters who oppose marriage equality as a result. But this is one of your favorite tactics, Maggie: any criticism of you actually an attack on millions of people. Delusions of grandeur much?

San Francisco just filed a brief in the Prop 8 case, saying 7 million Californians who voted to protect marriage as the union of one man and one woman are responsible for high rates of suicide among gay people.

Actually, the brief says:

The net effect of discrimination against lesbians and gay men in society, according to Dr. Meyer, is a disproportionate incidence of mental and physical health problems, substance abuse, depression, and suicide.

“Discrimination against gays and lesbians in society” includes not just gay marriage, but job discrimination, housing discrimination, immigration, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, beatings, arson, and parental abandonment. The San Francisco brief doesn’t even mention the 7 million people, but you want your readers to believe the brief “says” what you claims it “says.”

You’d have been more accurate here if you said some of us believe that those 7 million voters contributed to the problem. But not nearly as much as people like you who lied to get their votes. Or who spend their lives stripping gays and lesbians of even the smallest legal recognition.

Evan Wolfson, one of the leading architects of the gay marriage movement, calls me out personally: “National Organization for Marriage Chairman Maggie Gallagher is among those who, with reckless disregard, attacks LGBT youth.”

I’ve never met Evan Wolfson and can’t comment on his claim. But I do know we’re right to call you out personally, especially when you tell people that same-sex couples can’t love each other the way opposite-sex couples can. That we can’t love our children the way straight couples can. You don’t think that sends a message of despair to gay kids? Really?

Former Clinton adviser Richard Socarides told the AP these suicides demonstrate why gays should be allowed to marry: “When you speak out for full equality now, as opposed to partial equality, or incremental equality, you send a message to everybody, including the bullies, that everyone is equal.”

Apparently, either we all agree that gay marriage is good or gay children will die.

Actually, either we all stop saying that gays are inferior to straights, or gay children will die.

It’s a horrific charge to levy in response to some pretty horrifying stories. Will gay marriage really reduce or prevent gay teen suicide? I felt a moral obligation to find out.

Or a financial obligation to keep your money rolling in.

Massachusetts has been tracking gay high school students for a decade using the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey.

LGBT teens were roughly four times as likely as other students to attempt suicide in the last year. They’re also about twice as likely to report being in a physical fight at school, three times more likely to say they were injured by a weapon and almost four times as likely to say they missed school because they felt physically unsafe, compared to other teens.

These kinds of negative outcomes are consistent with the idea that anti-gay bullying is mainly responsible for the higher suicide rate among gay teens.

I hear a “but” coming…

But as I kept reading, I kept finding pieces of the puzzle that don’t seem to fit the “it’s homophobia pulling the trigger” narrative.

Not hard to do when your income depends on it.

Gay students are also more than twice as likely to report having had sexual intercourse before age 13 — that is, to be sexually abused as children. They are three times as likely to report being the victims of dating violence, and nearly four times as likely to report forced sexual contact.

Teens who are open enough to identify themselves as gay might also be open enough to reveal things the average teen would hide. At least, that’s one answer.

An alternative is that people like you have so consistently and thoroughly demeaned gay people that gay kids are more confused, conflicted, and vulnerable to abuse than straight kids.

A majority of LGBT teens in Massachusetts reported using illegal drugs in the last month.

Congratulations – your message of despair is having an impact!

(Perhaps most oddly, gay teens are also three times as likely as non-gay teens to report either becoming pregnant or getting someone else pregnant.)

Does it seem odd? You don’t think gay teens could be eager to prove to themselves they’re not gay in a culture that demeans their sexual orientation? If you disagree, then you’d best improve your case so it can account for this oddity.

Forced sex, childhood sexual abuse, dating violence, early unwed pregnancy, substance abuse — could these be a more important factor in the increased suicide risk of LGBT high schoolers than anything people like me ever said?

Maggie, this defense amounts to nothing more than, I’m not the only thing pushing gay kids to suicide, and other things are even worse! That doesn’t relieve you of your culpability. And again, you should look at your role in making gay kids more vulnerable to these forces.

The deeper you look, the more you see kids who are generally unprotected in horrifying ways that make it hard to believe — if you are really focusing on these kids’ well-being — that gay marriage is the answer.

Nice straw man, Maggie. Who said gay marriage is “the answer”? Marriage discrimination is one facet of anti-gay discrimination. You take comfort in the idea that you’re not the entire problem, but you’re still part of the problem.

And that’s exactly what the Youth Risk Behavior data also shows: In 2001, gay teens in Massachussetts were almost four times more likely to have attempted suicide (31 percent versus 8 percent). In 2007 — after four years of legalized gay marriage in that state — gay teens were still about four times more likely to attempt suicide than non-gay teens (29 percent versus 6 percent).

Or, perhaps, after six years of increasing visibility in the youth media, gay teens were more willing to talk about being gay 2007 than they were in 2001 (or 1991 or 1981 or 1951).

Of course, another difference between 2001 and 2007 is that NOM (or Protect Marriage or Stand For Marriage Maine) didn’t exist in 2001, getting national attention. And it’s well-documented that anti-gay abuse and violence increase during the campaigns against marriage equality spear-headed by, well, you. Could there be a connection?

Whether you are looking at their faces or looking at the statistics, one thing is clear: These kids need help, real help. They should not become a mere rhetorical strategy, a plaything in our adult battles.

If you see gays and lesbians battling the forces that drive kids to suicide, it takes willful blindness for you to reduce those kids to “a mere rhetorical strategy, a plaything in our adult battles.” You’re demanding we fight crime while ignoring the forces that cause crime.

Each of these teens is a child of God. And each one deserves better from all of us than becoming a “teachable moment” in someone else’s culture war.

And yet here you are, using them as a “teachable moment” in your culture war. You’re right about one thing – they deserved better than that. They deserved rich lives in a society where people don’t demean them or strip away their rights or bully them to death. You should work toward that world instead of scrambling to avoid your share of the blame.

Maggie Gallagher is president of the National Organization for Marriage.

National Organization “for” Marriage? I don’t think so. Have you ever counted up the number of marriages you’ve prevented versus the number you’ve saved? Or have you been too busy lately washing that mysterious red stuff off your hands?

79 Comments October 20, 2010

Those poor, bullied NOMmers

by Rob Tisinai

Our opponents have gotten quite skilled at co-opting the language we use. Maggie Gallagher and NOM in particular excel at this, calling us hateful, intolerant bigots for daring to disagree — loudly — when they question our basic human worth.

Now this tactic seems to have trickled down to their followers.

On Tuesday, the Human Rights Campaign delivered a 150,000-signature petition to Boyd Packer, a Morman Elder. Here’s what it said:

Dear Elder Packer,

I’m appalled that you chose this moment to deliver a sermon saying same-sex attraction is unnatural and same-sex unions are immoral. You have risked further alienating LGBT youth and potentially contributing to suicides of even more vulnerable young people. You’ve told them that their very identities are “impure and unnatural” and you’ve incited the violence and bullying that often drives them to suicide by repeating lies disproven by both science and the experience of millions of Americans who know their LGBT neighbors and care about them.

I hope you will cease putting young people in real peril and acknowledge the scientific truth: sexual orientation cannot be changed, nor should it be.

You know what NOM supporters are calling this?

Bullying.

I kid you not. Here are a couple comments from NOM’s Facebook page.

And I thought homosexuals were “anti-bullying”. I guess not. Just goes to show how stuck on stupid they really are.

Bullying is a two way street……when gays and lesbians bully others to change their thinking it is still bullying.

Yeah, bullying. The strategy here is obvious — and dangerous. Bullying has led to well-publicized gay suicides, wrenching any normal human heart and making decent people wary of our opponents’ casual, horrific, anti-gay propaganda. Our opponents can’t surrender that propaganda, though, so their only option is to trivialize the concept of bullying itself. It works like this: (more…)

148 Comments October 14, 2010

“If gay men were really gay, would they commit suicide?”

by Rob Tisinai

I recently had an exchange with a NOMmer on Facebook who was grousing about the word gay and ended his little polemic with this:

If gay men were really gay, would they commit suicide?

Like you, I’m torn up by the run of suicides we’ve seen from gay kids lately. I read that glib line from this self-described Christian (though I’m not sure what Christ would say about him) and it brought all the heartache up to the surface. I wrote back:

“Gay” became a code term for homosexual men to identify each other without getting fired, beaten up, or killed.

“If gay men were really gay, would they commit suicide?” I think that sentence speaks for itself. That’s the sort of sad, twisted, impersonal statement that makes people realize the anti-gay forces have serious psychological issues.

In other words, Will, people like you are the reason the votes at the state level get closer and closer, why people don’t want to be seen as opponents of marriage equality, why people are turning away from your side every year, and why we’ll win this battle. You, Will, are the reason you’ll lose.

He came back saying it was just a play on words. In other words, he confirmed what I said about him (Gays? Suicide? Teens killing themselves? Time for wordplay!). But at that point, I was through posting on NOM’s Facebook page.

Dan Savage, though, has a great article with a line that says exactly what needs to be said:

The religious right points to the suicide rate among gay teenagers—which the religious right works so hard to drive up (see above)—as evidence that the gay lifestyle is destructive. It’s like intentionally running someone down with your car and then claiming that it isn’t safe to walk the streets.

Read his whole piece. It’s worth it.

118 Comments October 12, 2010

Discrimination? Certainly not!

By Rob Tisinai

My take on one of the most annoying and ill-reasoned arguments against marriage equality.

This is an open thread on marriage equality, yesterday’s conclusion of the NOM tour, or whatever else is on your mind.

87 Comments October 7, 2010

NOMsense, plain and simple (-minded)

By Rob Tisinai

NOM has filed an amicus brief with the 9th Circuit arguing for Prop 8. They call it “dynamite.” I call it a mess. I’ll leave the legal analysis to the lawyers, but I have to point out some of the worst bits of logic or my head will explode (hey, maybe that’s why it’s “dynamite”).

One bit made me especially crazy. NOM has a section titled:

Evidence from Massachusetts also suggests a weakening in the marriage culture following implementation of same-sex marriage.

I perked up because I haven’t heard of any ill-effects in Massachusetts. What could it be? Two things actually: misleading statistics and circular reasoning.

Misleading statistics

First, NOM relies on a claim made by the Prop 8 side:

Indeed, the Massachusetts data relied upon by the district court shows that both the divorce rate and the marriage rate actually changed for the worse from 2004 to 2007.

Really? Let’s graph the data.

marriage-divorce-MASS

  • We do see a tiny uptick in the divorce rate from 2004-2007. But 2008 and 2009 give us the lowest rates of the decade! All this data was available when they filed this brief on September 17, so why didn’t they use it?
  • We see a decline in marriage rates from 2004-2007, but (unlike the divorce rates), these numbers are within recent historical norms.

Frankly, based on these numbers, it’s hard to say ending marriage discrimination helped or hurt the “marriage culture” in Massachusetts. So what’s NOM’s other strategy?

Circular reasoning

This one’s an amazing lapse in logic. NOM provides this as evidence of harm:

In 2009, amicus curiae National Organization for Marriage commissioned a survey in Massachusetts of attitudes about marriage five years into that state’s experiment with same-sex marriage. The survey found that ?in the five years since gay marriage became a reality in Massachusetts, support for the idea that the ideal is a married mother and father dropped from 84 percent to 76 percent.

Do you see the circle?

NOM circular

Actually, here’s a much better spin on NOM’s survey:

In states where residents have first-hand experience with married same-sex parents, the population becomes more accepting of same-sex parents. Ignorance and second-hand knowledge help opponents of same-sex parenting, while direct contact and personal experience favor proponents.

Now, to be fair, NOM does try to make an argument that a married mom and dad are the ideal, but they do so by using another form of dishonesty.

Misusing research

NOM’s brief quotes a researcher:

[F]amily structure matters for children, and the family structure that helps the most is a family headed by two-biological parents in a low-conflict marriage. Children in single-parent families, children born to unmarried mothers, and children in stepfamilies or cohabiting relationships face higher risks of poor outcomes. . . . There is thus value for children in promoting strong, stable marriages between biological parents.

As usual, there’s something missing in this litany of sub-optimal family structures: parents who adopt a child at birth. But NOM has long been willing to throw adoptive parents under the bus in order to keep gays in their place. They also claim research shows married biological parents are better than same-sex parents, using research that didn’t even look at same-sex parents. That’s a nice lead-in to the last bunch of errors I’ll look at.

Straw men and non-sequiturs

Actually, the title above isn’t strong enough to capture the essence of NOM’s brief. It’s more like a straw army marching in random directions. For instance:

The trial court rejected this first view [of marriage], asserting that procreation has never been a purpose of marriage because elderly people and infertile people have always been allowed to marry.

Really? Actually, really no. The judge didn’t claim procreation has never been a purpose of marriage, merely that it is not the sole or necessary purpose.

Here’s another one:

Reasonable people may believe that marriage promotes the state’s interest in encouraging children to be born to a mother and father who are committed both to one another and to the children their union may create.

Oooh, that one’s slick. Who’s going to say they want to discourage such a thing? We all want a child’s parents to be committed to each other. But if my mom were still alive, she’d stand up like a Mama Grizzly between NOM and my adopted brother and state in clear terms of frightening authority that a child’s real parents may not be the biological parents. So if NOM truly wanted to strengthen the commitment between parents, they’d be eager for same-sex parents to marry.

And this:

If two men are a marriage, then marriage is clearly, and in a new public way, no longer about procreation, no longer about natural parenthood, and no longer about connecting mothers and fathers to children.

Some version of “natural parent” appears three times in the brief, and “natural family” is in there twice. “Natural” is a great term: it feels so, well, natural. And of course the opposite would be “unnatural,” as in, I don’t know, “unnatural acts.” If you’re seeking out loaded words, “natural” is near the top of your list. Plus, it allows you to avoid terms with clear meaning, like “biological” and “adoptive.” That’s crucial for NOM, because we all know biological parents can be crap while adoptive parents can be a godsend.

I’d also like to point out that we can take NOM’s logic and rewrite their quote like this:

If a childless couple is allowed to adopt a baby, then marriage is clearly, and in a new public way, no longer about procreation, no longer about natural parenthood, and no longer about connecting mothers and fathers to their natural children.

And nobody’s buying that taco.

Actually NOM is obsessed with procreation. So much so that they act like nothing about children matters except procreation. Think that’s extreme? Check this out:

If same-sex unions are deemed just the same as unions of husband and wife, it becomes difficult to see how marriage could have any public relationship to its great historic task of producing families in which the mother and father who make the baby raise the baby in love together. This court will have declared that marriage is not about children; rather it is primarily about adult interests, with no particular relationship to children at all.

No particular relationship to children at all? They’re saying that if a married couple (of any sort) didn’t “make” the baby they’re raising, then their marriage has nothing to do with children. I can’t wrap my head around that.

Also notice that NOM doesn’t bother to argue that same-sex marriage will disconnect marriage from child-rearing; they merely say “it becomes difficult to see” how it wouldn’t. That’s not an argument; it’s just a confession of blindness.

Lord, lord, lord. Misleading statistics, circular reasoning, misused research, straw men, and non sequiturs. This isn’t a legal brief, it’s a horror show from Freshman English.

65 Comments September 29, 2010

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