Washington Markup

Vicious Anti-Gay Rhetoric? Check. Facts? Not So Much.

By Ian S. Thompson, ACLU Washington Legislative Office at 2:26pm

On Thursday, subscribers to the conservative Weekly Standard received an email fundraising pitch from the president of a fringe anti-gay organization, Public Advocate of the United States, which directed tremendous venom at the Student Non-Discrimination Act, labeling it the “Homosexual Classrooms Act.” The email, first reported by Justin Elliott writing on Salon.com, opens with the following outrageous and hate-filled accusation, which would be laughable if it were not so deeply offensive:

Radical homosexuals have infiltrated Congress and want to indoctrinate children and eliminate traditional values from America while creating a society based on sexual promiscuity.

Because the ACLU has been a longtime champion of the Student Non-Discrimination Act and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth, we could not allow the vicious anti-gay misinformation in this fundraising email to go unchallenged. After all, one of the brilliant aspects of the First Amendment is the ability to fight hateful and misleading speech with a counter response.

The Student Non-Discrimination Act, which is currently pending in both chambers of Congress, would have a profound impact in improving the lives of LGBT students in the U.S. by ensuring that discrimination and harassment of students on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity has no place in our country’s public elementary and secondary schools. This is a goal that should, and does, transcend party affiliation and ideology.

The email goes on to list what it labels a “laundry list of anti-family provisions.” The problem of course is that nothing on their list is actually true. For example, the email claims that the legislation would force a pro-LGBT curriculum on private and religious schools. Well, guess what? The Student Non-Discrimination Act only applies to public K-12 schools nationwide. In addition, the legislation specifically includes language restating the legal right of students to form extracurricular Bible clubs in public schools.

About the only thing this email gets right are the very impressive cosponsorship counts both bills currently have – 34 in the Senate and 150 in the House. Perhaps it is this support, made possible in no small way by the advocacy of tens of thousands of ACLU members and activists across the country, which has the anti-gay fringe so worried.

If groups like Public Advocate of the United States think they’ll be able to defeat the Student Non-Discrimination Act using misrepresentations and the language of hate, well, I think they have already lost. I take comfort in knowing that the vast majority of Americans would find the language in this fundraising pitch to be offensive in the extreme and utterly repugnant. While this fringe anti-gay fundraising pitch contains nothing but misinformation, the problems facing LGBT students in our nation’s schools are all too real. Discrimination, harassment, and even physical abuse, are often part of LGBT students’ daily lives at school. A 2009 study of more than 7,000 LGBT middle and high school students across the U.S. found that nine out of ten reported experiencing harassment at their school within the past year based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, and two-thirds said they felt unsafe at school because of who they are. Nearly one-third skipped at least one day of school within the previous month because of concerns for their safety. LGBT youth are also at a significantly increased risk for suicide related to mental health issues that often arise from poor treatment and discrimination in schools.

Please stand with the ACLU in rejecting anti-gay hate and misinformation and urge your members of Congress to support the Student Non-Discrimination Act.

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