Thursday, June 20, 2013

Standard Voluntary Assignment Used In Psychology Classes To Teach Students Empathy For Gays And Lesbians Now Subject Of Possible Legal Battle After Religious Right Argue Lesson Illegal, Arrest Of Two For Brutal Beating Of 22-Year-Old Gay Man In Ohio Underlines Absence Of Hate Crime Law In State, Demands That New York City Mayoral Candidate Anthony Weiner Condemn Prospective Voter’s Comments Calling Candidate Christine Quinn “Dyke,” Michelle Shocked Concert Meant To “Heal” San Francisco Gay Community Cancelled

In Tennessee, a professor at Columbia State Community College wanted to teach her students a lesson about diversity. Instead, she’s being accused of religious intolerance. At issue is an assignment in a class taught this spring by psychology professor Linda Brunton. The Tennessean reports students claim they were required to wear a rainbow ribbon and make public statements in support of gay rights. They were then assigned to write a paper about the reactions they got from other people. Lawyers from the Phoenix-based Alliance Defending Liberty, a Christian legal group, said they received complaints from Christian students in Brunton’s class who oppose gay rights. Travis Barham, an Alliance Defending Liberty attorney, claimed in a letter to Columbia State that the assignment was illegal. “Dr. Brunton’s assignment violates decades (of) clearly established law by compelling students to support in public views they either do not wish to advocate or find abhorrent,” Barham wrote. Brunton declined to comment for this story. But Chris Sanders of the Tennessee Equality Project, a friend of the professor, said the lawyer’s claims are untrue. He said the assignment was voluntary and is commonly used in psychology classes. It’s designed to help students gain empathy for gays and lesbians, according to a teaching guide for the assignment, called “Promoting Increased Understanding of Sexual Diversity through Experience Learning.” That guide says that the assignment should be voluntary. “Students were allowed to opt out, and some did,” Sanders said. “And students were told that if they felt uncomfortable, they could take off the ribbons.” David Hacker of Alliance Defending Freedom said that teaching students to have empathy or to understand opposing views in the classroom is allowed. But students can’t be required to wear the ribbons outside the class. Hacker would not identify the students who complained about Brunton or say how many there were. He also did not know if the organization had documents showing whether the assignment was required. The letter also claims that Brunton called those who oppose gay rights “uneducated bigots.” It demands that Brunton apologize to students she offended. College officials said in a statement that they are looking into the matter. The allegations angered Greg Gwin, the minister at Collegevue Church of Christ, which is across the street from the college. On Wednesday, the church changed its sign to read, “CSCC: God is not an ‘Uneducated Bigot’ Rom 1:26.27,” Gwin adding, “I am increasingly disgusted by the intolerance of those who claim to promote tolerance.” Columbia State student Jeff Vernon, who attends Collegevue Church of Christ, said he took a class with Brunton two years ago. He said she was clear about her support for gay rights and at one point described those who oppose gay rights as hateful. “I take offense at that,” he said. “I don’t hate anyone.” But wearing the ribbon was a voluntary, extra-credit assignment, Vernon said. He did not participate and suffered no consequences. “It did not affect my grade,” he said. “It did make for an uncomfortable situation.”

In Ohio, the Sandusky Register reports that a Norwalk man brutally beaten outside a local convenience store Monday morning said he is certain the attackers targeted him because of his sexual orientation. “It was pretty much a hate crime,” said the victim, asking the Register not to identify him for fear of retaliation. “I was targeted because of the way I am.” Unlike some other states, Ohio has no law making it a hate crime to target someone because of his or her sexual orientation. Shortly before 4:00 am Monday, two men attacked the 22-year-old victim just outside the front doors of the 7-Eleven on Camp Street. Police later arrested Angel Kennedy, 23, of the 200 block of McDonough St., and Neno Miller, 18, of the 2200 block of Mills St., charging them with aggravated robbery, criminal trespass and obstruction. Kennedy received an additional charge of criminal damaging. The victim said he and his friend went to the store for a late-night snack run. Inside the store, they were confronted by two customers — later identified as Kennedy and Miller — who allegedly began calling them “faggots.” The victim said he and his friend ignored the taunts, finished their purchase and walked out the door. But the two men followed close behind, asking the victim for a lighter; when he couldn’t provide one, his friend offered to purchase one to just be finished with the interaction. When the victim’s friend turned to re-enter the store to buy a lighter, the men allegedly lunged at them. “Everything happened so quickly,” the victim said. “They punched me in the head so many times and kicked me in the face.” He suffered several abrasions to the face and a cut to his chin, which later required several stitches, according to a Sandusky police report. The assailants grabbed the victim’s wallet and then fled on foot, the report said. Police arrived and spotted the attackers running in the 600 block of Shelby St., but officers were ultimately unable to catch them. A Shelby Street resident approached officers during the search and said he awoke to crashing noises in his yard. The resident said one of the suspects, later identified as Kennedy, came to his bedroom window and said, “Man I’m only 16, and got jumped by 10 dudes at 7-Eleven, they were chasing me man,” the police report said. The resident said he tried to stall the suspect, but the man fled when a police cruiser’s lights swept the property. Police went to the emergency room and got statements from the victims. About two hours later, officers got a call from the same Shelby Street resident, who said the two suspects had just returned to his yard in search of baseball hats they lost during the chase. Officers arrived and quickly arrested Kennedy and Miller, who witnesses identified as the alleged assailants. The victim and his friend made it clear they believe they were targeted because they are gay. The victim said the assailants took his wallet as more of an afterthought, tossing it aside after they fled and stealing nothing. In Ohio, hate crime laws do not include a provision protecting people based on sexual orientation, Sandusky police detectives said. Race, color, religion and national origin are the only protected groups under Ohio’s ethnic intimidation law. “I was targeted because of who I am,” the victim said. “Who’s it going to be next time?”

New York State Assemblywoman Deborah Glick and Brad Hoylman are “appalled” at what they describe as New York City mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner’s woefully insufficient response to an elderly woman’s description of Christine Quinn as a “dyke.” This touching vignette was described in a Washington Post article by Jason Horowitz thusly: “You a registered Democrat?” he asked an elderly woman wheeling a shopping cart by him. “I am,” she said. “And I’m not voting for uh, what’s her name? The dyke.” “Okay. I just need you to sign the petition to get me on the ballot,” said Weiner, who then noticed the incredulous reaction of a reporter and added, “and you really shouldn’t talk that way about people.” “Oh, I’m sorry,” the woman said. “It’s okay,” Weiner responded. “It’s not your fault.” The Albany Times Union suggests that it is somewhat unclear if Weiner meant that last line in the sense of, “Well, we’re all unwilling repositories for cultural intolerance of one kind or another or It’s not your fault your obnoxious quote will be included in a newspaper article — after all, I’m the guy who Tweeted a picture of his junk and resigned from Congress but now thinks I can be elected mayor. I’ve got reporters following my every move.” Quinn, like Glick and Hoylman, is gay. Here’s the lawmakers’ joint statement: “We are appalled by the account in the Washington Post of Anthony Weiner’s unacceptable response to a prospective voter’s homophobic, misogynistic slur in reference to Christine Quinn. According to the reporter, Weiner at first ignored the slur. Then, after noticing the reporter, Weiner told the voter she ‘really shouldn’t talk that way about people.’ Finally, after the voter apologized, Weiner said, ‘It’s okay. It’s not your fault.’ Weiner’s response to this blatant display of homophobia is completely inappropriate and extremely alarming. There is nothing ‘okay’ about homophobia and it’s never ‘okay’ to condone bias-based slurs or hate speech of any kind. The voter’s use of the term demonstrates the challenges women candidates and lesbians in particular face, and Weiner’s failure to swiftly and firmly condemn her language demonstrates his lack of moral courage. We demand an immediate apology from Mr. Weiner on behalf of LGBT and women New Yorkers.”

An update on a previous post: In San Francisco, the Michelle Shocked concert scheduled for Pride weekend has been canceled. In a statement, San Francisco Examiner Publisher Todd Vogt said, somewhat cryptically, "I am officially canceling the plan to have Michelle Shocked come to San Francisco and perform a free concert and apologize for her recent anti-gay comments. I had hoped that her concert and apology would have held the performer accountable and shine a light on hatred and bigotry, but, unfortunately, it has not. Having Ms. Shocked stand in front of a San Francisco audience and perform her music was intended to help heal, but has only further angered and offended the community. I sincerely apologize to all."

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