Lake County School Board May Slash All Student Clubs To Blockade Gay-Straight Alliance UPDATE

A central Florida school district may ban extracurricular student clubs in an attempt to prevent the formation of a Gay-Straight Alliance at a local middle school.

The Lake County School District discussed amending the rules regarding student clubs in order to blockade a Gay-Straight Alliance at Carver Middle School in Leesburg, according to the Miami Herald. A group of students attempted to form the Gay-Straight Alliance during the 2011-2012 school year, but were turned down. One eighth-grade student, Bayli Silberstein, persisted and reapplied for permission in November.

Silberstein’s push for a GSA is in response to anti-gay bullying at the school, according to WFTV. She claims she and her friends were tormented by others for their sexual orientation. “It hurt, and that is something that I did not want to see continuing,” she told central Florida’s ABC local affiliate WFTV.

After Silberstein’s application was previously denied, the American Civil Liberties Union got involved, according to WFTV. The ACLU sent a letter to the school district saying that if school officials continued to obstruct the formation of the group, taxpayers may have to foot the bill for a very expensive lawsuit.

The Florida School district is legally obligated to permit a Gay-Straight Alliance, per the federal Equal Access Act. The legislation states that it is unlawful for a school receiving federal funding “to deny equal access or a fair opportunity to, or discriminate against, any students who wish to conduct a meeting… on the basis of the religious, political, philosophical, or other content of the speech.”

So now, Lake County may sacrifice all to thwart one.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, school board members mulled over the issue on Monday. Chairwoman Kyleen Fischer reasoned that the school is not responsible for “social engineering.” Board member Tod Howard expressed worry over losing the more valuable clubs, remarking during the meeting, “I am very concerned that one club would push out the remainder of the clubs that are doing good things.”

via Lake County School Board May Slash All Student Clubs To Blockade Gay-Straight Alliance UPDATE.

LGBT History Month Icon Of The Day: Matthew Shepard

Just past midnight on October 7, 1998, one of the most horrific anti-gay hate crimes in American history took place in Laramie, Wyoming. Matthew Shepard, a 21-year-old college student, was abducted by two men, tied to a fence, beaten with the butt of a pistol and left to die. A bicyclist found his body 18 hours later and on October 12 at 12:53 a.m. Shepard died in a hospital with his family beside him.

Shepard’s murder sparked national attention and outrage regarding LGBT hate and bigotry. His parents, Dennis and Judy Shepard, founded The Matthew Shepard Foundation shortly after their son’s death to commemorate and honor Shepard and to “replace hate with understanding, compassion and acceptance,” a vision in line with their son’s dreams, beliefs and passions. In 2009, 11 years after Shepard’s passing, President Obama signed into law The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act, a federal hate crime law that prohibits assaults on people based on their sexual orientation, gender and gender identity.

LGBT History Month Icon Of The Day: Matthew Shepard.

Lawyer must pay $4.5M to gay student he criticized – US news – Life – NBCNews.com

A jury on Thursday awarded a gay University of Michigan student body president $4.5 million in his lawsuit against a former Michigan assistant attorney general who posted about him in an anti-gay blog.

The U.S.DistrictCourt jury ruled in favor of Christopher Armstrong, who claimed he suffered distress after a blog created by Andrew Shirvell accused him of enticing minors with alcohol and recruiting people to become homosexual.

“I’m just incredibly humbled by what happened today,” Armstrong told The Associated Press. “This is truly a victory — not just for myself, but for a lot of other kids out there.”

Shirvell, who was representing himself, said the jury award was “grossly excessive” for what was “clearly protected speech … and activity.”

“This should have been thrown out,” he said, adding that he plans to appeal. “Juries give short shrift to FirstAmendment rights.”

Armstrong accused Shirvell of defamation as well as emotional distress for his actions on the blog, in Facebook posts and during visits to the Ann Arbor campus.

Then-Attorney General Mike Cox fired Shirvell in 2010 after Shirvell criticized Armstrong, who graduated last year.

via Lawyer must pay $4.5M to gay student he criticized – US news – Life – NBCNews.com.

Parents of Rutgers student who committed suicide say “Sin needs to be taken out of homosexuality” – Rock Center with Brian Williams

But the Clementis also say they realize their son was wrestling with demons unrelated to the spying incident. Just weeks before he left home to attend Rutgers he told his mother he was gay. She says the news “shocked” her, in part because of her strong Christian faith. Since then she says she’s gone from “point A” in her beliefs “to point B.”

“Was that point A, the point of “homosexuality is a sin?” asked Holt.

“Well, yes,” Mrs. Clementi answered. “And of trying to just accept it.”

She said she also realizes that Tyler may have misread her reaction during their conversation. He later texted a friend that his mother had rejected him after he came out to her.

“It just was like a dagger,” Mrs. Clementi said. “And that took me a long time to process. Because I did not think I had rejected him.”

via Parents of Rutgers student who committed suicide say “Sin needs to be taken out of homosexuality” – Rock Center with Brian Williams.

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Grieving parents: Gay teens walk a painful, lonely path | syracuse.com

Twenty or 30 years ago, Tracy said, gay children could at least find safety away from school. In the age of Internet, electronic insults followed Jamey home. Since his death, Tracy and Tim have grown to realize, day by day, how unbearable his ordeal must have become.

“People don’t wake up one day and say, ‘I’m gay,'” Tracy said Sunday, from an altar adorned with rainbow-colored cloth and candles at All Saints. “My son, on his 14th birthday, didn’t say, ‘I want to get picked on, I can’t wait to get pushed around, so I’m going to tell people I’m gay.'”

As they went through Jamey’s room in the days after his death, his parents were surprised by what they found: Their son had written a passionate essay supporting gay marriage. He created T-shirts with slogans supporting gay rights and tolerance.

“Unfortunately,” Tracy said, “he had a harder time believing it for himself.”

Grieving parents: Gay teens walk a painful, lonely path | syracuse.com.

Growing Up LGBT In America: HRC Survey Polls 10,000 Gay Youth On Bullying And Education Issues

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth are twice as likely to say they have been physically assaulted, kicked or shoved at school. Ninety-two percent say they hear negative messages about being LGBT through school, the Internet and peers, while 42 percent say the community they live in is not accepting of LGBT people.

Those are just three of the more disturbing statistics unveiled by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) as part of its “Growing Up LGBT In America” survey, released to coincide with the start of the advocacy group’s incoming president Chad Griffin’s tenure.

HRC officials have deemed the survey — which polled more than 10,000 LGBT youth between the ages of 13 and 17 years old around the country — “groundbreaking,” though acknowledging that it “provides a stark picture of the difficulties they face — the impact on their well-being is profound.”

On a more optimistic note, however, officials also note that “these youth are quite resilient. They find safe havens among their peers, online and in their schools.”

In a statement cited by MetroWeekly among other publications, Griffin noted, “We have a responsibility to change that, because we know all too well that there are real life consequences to inaction.”

You can view the full report here.

Growing Up LGBT In America: HRC Survey Polls 10,000 Gay Youth On Bullying And Education Issues.

Caiden Cowger, Conservative Teen Radio Host, Slams President Obama For ‘Making Kids Gay’

A West Virginia-based teen radio host is making waves after proclaiming that President Obama “is making kids gay” in a recent episode.

Fourteen-year-old Caiden Cowger, who hosts the twice-weekly “Caiden Cowger Show,” made his anti-gay proclamations in a recent broadcast, video of which was uploaded to his YouTube channel on May 26. “Homosexuality is a belief,” Cowger, who has previously interviewed former GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain, declares. “The person is not born that way, no matter what Lady Gaga says…it is a decision.”

After confessing that he was once friends with some kids who have since come out as gay, he notes, “They were not homosexuals [then]…they just decided all of a sudden, ‘I think I’m going to be gay,'” before he eventually concludes, “I’m going to tell you this, guys: President Obama…Vice President Biden…is making kids gay!”

Cowger, who is identified by The New Civil Rights Movement as a Pentecostal Christian, slams homosexuality as “a perverted belief, it’s immoral and not natural” before noting, “I’m not for bullying homosexuals, I believe that it’s wrong. But when you’re trying to teach them the word of God and they consider that bullying…I find that a big problem, not being allowed to convert other people to my religion.”

via Caiden Cowger, Conservative Teen Radio Host, Slams President Obama For ‘Making Kids Gay’.

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Metro – Former Rutgers student Dharun Ravi sentencd to 30 days in prison

Dharun Ravi

A former Rutgers University student was sentenced on Monday to 30 days in prison for hate crimes after spying on his roommate’s gay encounter with another man.

Dharun Ravi, 20, had faced a maximum of 10 years behind bars for his conviction, which ramped up penalties in the invasion of privacy case in Middlesex County Superior Court in New Jersey. The sentence was imposed by Judge Glenn Berman, who also gave Ravi probation

via Metro – Former Rutgers student Dharun Ravi sentencd to 30 days in prison.

Elke Kennedy: This Mother’s Day, Let’s Stand Together to Protect Our LGBT Children

I am Sean Kennedy’s mother, Elke Kennedy, and I am reaching out to other moms who might or might not accept of the fact that their son or daughter is gay. Most of you do not know what it is like to receive a phone call like I got at 4:30 a.m. telling me that something had happened to my child.

The worst thing every mother dreads hit me two days after Mother’s Day in 2007. On that day, May 16, 2007, my youngest son, Sean, was taken away from me by hate because of his sexual orientation. When I got to the hospital that morning, I had the sickening feeling in my stomach that this was serious. When I finally got to see my son, he was already on life support. His hands were so cold; I wanted to warm him up. I told him that everything would be all right now, because Mom was here. I prayed to God to please let him be OK, and to let me take Sean’s place, because he hadn’t been able to live his life. Of course, it doesn’t work that way, and we hoped and waited for the next 17 hours that Sean would be all right. But it wasn’t meant to be that way. We gathered at Sean’s bed in a state of complete exhaustion and shock as we were told that he was brain-dead. Sixty young people had been with us at the hospital all day and night, telling me so many stories about Sean, about how they loved him and needed him. Now I had to go out there and tell these young people that their friend had died, but that he would live on in others, because he’d donated his organs. Each of the kids got to go back and say their goodbyes. It was so difficult to hear their goodbyes and see all their emotions.

Now I had to plan his memorial service, and our church told us that we could have the service there. Then, that Friday, after everything had been communicated to family and friends and the newspaper, we received a phone call telling us that the elders of the church had decided that we could not have the service there after all, because Sean was gay. After many phone calls back and forth, they allowed us to have the service there in the end. However, afterwards, we were no longer welcome at the church

via Elke Kennedy: This Mother’s Day, Let’s Stand Together to Protect Our LGBT Children.