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Anti-Gay Politicians Watch 2: Buddy Collins

Hypocritically speaking

I covered, very shortly, Buddy Collins in the first Anti-Gay Politicians Watch. Collins, a member of the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Board of Education, is probably the most biased and bigoted member of the Board when it comes to LGBT youth and students and LGBT issues. He is also running for re-election this November, along with his bigot-buddy Jeannie Metcalf.

It is kind of funny, though, because being bigoted and biased usually comes hand-n-hand with hypocrisy…. well, Mr. Collins has that, too.

The Winston-Salem Journal published an article today concerning the School System and the upcoming bond referrendum. In the article Collins was quoted giving what he probably thought was a good “mini-campaign speech” (i.e. sound-bite):

School-board members like to hear from the public about the needs at the various schools, said school-board member Buddy Collins. It made a difference in 2001, when school-board members were figuring out how to divvy up bond money, and it will matter this time too as the board prepares for a bond referendum in the fall, he said.

“I think it makes a difference when parents come and make a case that is reasonable and do it in a reasonable and professional way,” he said. “This board always wants to listen to parents.”

The board always wants to listen to parents? I’m calling bull on this one.

Back in 2002 (I believe… I was a sophomore in high school I think), GLSEN Winston-Salem ALONG WITH a host of students, parents, teachers, ministers, community leaders, so on and so on, came to the Board of Education to request that the anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies be changed to include sexual orientation and gender-identity.

We came with statistics and research and resources and personal testimony from students currently in the Winston-Salem schools. We came very respectfully and, I believe we were “reasonable and professional”. You know who wasn’t professional though? The Board of Education and especially Buddy Collins.

Buddy Collins is a hypocrite. He can say all that he wants about how the school baord listens to community members but when it comes down to it, the board only listens to certain types of community members, parents and students: those being STRAIGHT community members, parents and students.

Maybe I should move back to Winston-Salem and run for the Board of Education. That way I would at least know for sure that LGBT and straight allied parents, students and community members are being listened to, instead of being called sinners and compared to murderers and rapists.

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LGBT youth rally against bill in Utah

According to the Salt Lake Tribune, approximately 300 people attended a rally yesterday planned by LGBT and straight allied youth against proposed legislation which would ban gay-straight alliances in Utah.

The bill, SB97, was sponsored by State Senator Chris Buttars and has not yet been passed by the Utah House. (See earlier posts, “These clubs are not about sex” and “Gay-Straight Alliances are a ‘local issue’“)

According to the article:

Under a clear sky, many people sported blue “equality” buttons and put yellow tape in the shape of an equal sign on their backs. Some carried homemade signs that read “I love and support my gay son” and “Equality – a fair and just Utah!” And flyers that read “Why is (Sen.) Chris Buttars obsessed with gay sex?” were put on car windshields around the Capitol.Â

Supporters said it was time that community members, regardless of sexual orientation, speak out against SB97, a proposed law sponsored by Buttars, that would give school districts the ability to eliminate gay support groups. The bill is waiting for a House vote.Â

Sen. Scott McCoy, a Salt Lake City Democrat and the state’s only openly gay senator, told the crowd: “This is family day at the Legislature,” adding that gay families deserve the same respect by lawmakers and protection by the law.Â

Do you know how I know things are slowly but surely headed in the right direction for America? I know because even in a state like Utah (which is probably the most conservative state) LGBT citizens and even LGBT youth are starting to organize for their lives, for their rights and for simple equality.

Our movement has been called the “Civil Rights Movement of the 21st Century”. Whoever said that: I couldn’t agree with more. Things are starting to get to the point here in America where equality will be unstoppable and very, very close at hand.

In a post on the South Dakota abortion ban issue, UNCG College Democrat Sam Bickett said something concerning the Supreme Court… but I also think it would apply to marriage equality and LGBT equality also (notice my edits/inserts):

Roe v. Wade [Marriage Equality/LGBT Rights] will come before the court sometime soon. While there are no guarantees, it is likely that Roberts and Alito will turn the court towards allowing state abortion [marriage] bans. But the Supreme Court is old. If we can hold it off until we get a Democratic President and a couple of good appointments, then it is worth it to try everything that we can.

While I was at the HRC Carolinas Gala in Charlotte I remember one of the speakers (although I cannot remember exactly who it was) talk about how our movement has very slowly started to snowball into a very big and largely supported movement as our goals begin to seem more attainable and reachable.

Reading the article about the LGBT students in Utah makes me smile. It makes me happy to see that students all over the country and in some of the most conservative areas are standing up for what they believe and feel. Their courage and conviction is amazing.

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According to a news release sent out by the anti-gay Alliance Defense Fund (ADF)� and published by TheRealityCheck.org, a letter from ADF has been sent to North Carolina public school officials on behalf of Mrs. Beverly Burrows, a parent who has complained about a NC Governor’s School seminar on the book “The New Gay Teenager”.

The letter was sent to Howard Lee, Chairman of the NC State Board of Education and June St. Clair Atkinson, Superintendent of the NC Department of Public Instruction. The news release was sent out on Friday, February 24, 2006 and the letter is dated February 23, 2006.

According to the news release:

The Alliance Defense Fund has issued a letter to North Carolina school officials on behalf of a parent requesting that they immediately halt their offering of a seminar titled “The New Gay Teenager.”

“Schools should be required to follow the law.� The seminar in question violated North Carolina statutes,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Mike Johnson. � “Teaching sexually-oriented material without parental knowledge is not only morally wrong, it is illegal.”

ADF attorneys believe officials broke the law because the organizers of the 2005 Governor’s School program did not follow state protocol, which dictates� that schools must notify parents and� obtain� their authorization� before any student can attend a class focusing on sexual matters.� A unilateral decision by school officials to offer the controversial seminar apparently came without legal consultation.

“The seminar’s organizers also erred by including anti-religious advocacy in the seminar’s curriculum and activities,” Johnson said. “Such practices breach the First Amendment and require immediate corrective action.”

The letter to NC public officials can be viewed at http://www.telladf.org/UserDocs/BurrowsLetter.pdf

Although I have conceded previously on the subject of anti-religious statements (if they were, indeed, made during the seminar),� I do not think that it was wrong, per se, for the seminar to have taken place and a dispute Mrs. Burrows’ claims that the seminar caused her son to� question his sexuality.� If he was questioning his sexuality or confused about it in any way, he was in that state� long before he� ever attended the seminar. Sexuality is not something that can be changed or have doubt cast upon it by� the words of another person.�

The one thing I fear now that the ADF has gotten involved is a lawsuit. I hope that the state will have enough courage and backbone to stand up against these right-wing, bigoted activists and stand up for what is right. The seminar was optional and students were not forced to attend. If Mrs. Burrows’ son had not have wanted to attend the seminar then he didn’t have to.

This is just another push by the Radical, Religious Right to force their beliefs on everyone else, while they sit back and complain about “homosexual recruitment”. As I said in an earlier post, it just seems a bit hypocritical to me for these right-wingers to complain about “indoctrination” when they are clearly wanting to do the same.

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HRC 2006 Carolinas Gala

Â

Over 1300 lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and straight allied individuals attended the 2006 HRC Carolinas Gala in Charlotte, NC, last night. I was honored to be there also, as one of 17 LGBT and allied youth who received youth “scholarships” to attend the dinner.

The theme for this year’s dinner was “Fire & Ice”. Overall, the event was an overwhelming success and a BLAST!!!

Speakers at the event included HRC Executive Director Joe Solmonese, Actress Jane Lynch and performer Kristin W. One of the presenting sponsors, Wachovia (shout out for Winston-Salem!!!), sent their executive vice president to the dinner in order to speak on behalf of the company. Dinner co-chairs, Jay Biles and Jennifer Garner, led the crowd through the night’s program.

HRC Carolinas also gave three awards last night. The Equality Award was presented to Parks Helms, Chairman of the Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners for his work and advocacy for LGBT citizens. Chairman Helms was instrumental in adopting the County’s sexual orientation-inclusive non-discrimination policy.

The Community Service Award was given to Charlotte NC Black Gay Pride, the organization formed just last year which organized a Black Gay Pride event which attracted approximately 7000 attendees from all different backgrounds, sexual orientations and identities.

The Legacy Award was presented to Dr. Ed Madden, Professor of the English Language and Literature at The University of South Carolina (Columbia, SC) for his advocacy. According to the Gala’s program, Dr. Madden “has been a tremendous public advocate for the gay and lesbian community in the state of South Carolina”.

The Gala was absolutely wonderful and I loved every minute of it. I met so many great people and was able to talk with LGBT and allied leaders from across the state. I also got a chance to meet up and talk with people with whom I haven’t seen in a while, including all my close friends and fellow LGBT advocates from Winston-Salem, NC. I even danced with them on the stage at the end of the dinner when Kristin W. sang “We Are Family”, lol.

So… for all of you who missed this year’s Gala… you’d better be at next year’s!!!

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Illinois school social worker gets the boot

MattHillNC.com Q-triad Blog EXCLUSIVE

An Illinois school social worker who came under scrutiny for her support of an LGBT support group at Vernon Hills High School has received news that her contract will not be renewed by the district.

As first reported by my blog, Rebecca Stern, a social worker at Vernon Hills High School, had to undergo an extensive review in which the schools took steps not regularly taken for any normal school personnel review. Stern, who had supported the establishment of a gay-straight alliance, had later pushed for a school support group for LGBT students. Although no other support group has been turned down (including one for students with divorced parents), the school tunred down her request.

Students and alumni very quickly organized to support Stern and a MySpace account in support of the social worker was created.

In an email exchange between Stern and myself, she had the following to say:

This is a regulary scheduled review, however, usually we are asked to write up a brief summary of our accomplishments before the meeting. I have not been asked to do that. Also, our principal has been invited to the meeting which is abnormal. I have asked our union rep to join me in the meeting. This is my 5th year with the district. My four previous evaluations have been exemplary.

In our school of over 1300 kids we do not have one out staff member or student. It is an unsafe environment. Due to the success of our GSA pilot last year the GLBT kids are coming out of the woodwork to me and only me. They do not attend GSA meetings for the most part. I wanted to start a GLBT confidential support group so that they could meet each other and support each other. I was denied. A support group has never been denied at VHHS before. Suddenly I’m losing my job.

A board meeting will be held on Monday, February 27, 2006, in which Stern plans to address the members. Although she has not yet decided on whether or not she will address them concerning her job, she does want to address LGBT students and she will advocate on their behalf, asking the board to provide more support for the students.

Stay tuned for more information about this issue, with the most up-to-date posts available by clicking here.

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A radical, right-wing Christian press organization has published an article concerning Susan Wiseman and situations involving both the false allegations of sexual misconduct and the controversial “New Gay Teenager” seminar at the NC Governor’s School.

The article, published by AgapePress� February 24, 2006, calls Ms. Wiseman a “suspected sex offender” and a “dangerous influence” while claiming that she is “indoctrinating” students on the homosexual lifestyle.

Although the Carolina Journal did publish an article concerning the investigation of Wiseman and the NC Governor’s School seminar, the article from AgapePress is the first to negatively and very biasedly connect the investigation, the seminar and Wiseman’s advocacy for LGBT students while leading readers to believe she is guilty of the misconduct and a “recruiter” for the LGBT community. Although the Carolina Journal article, written by Paul Chesser (with whom I have personally spoken), had a definite conservative bent, it remained somewhat unbiased and fair to all parties involved. The AgapePress article goes all the way to the right (the radical right that is) and shows its clearly obvious anti-LGBT bias and prejudice.

The parents complaining about the NC Governor’s School seminar are featured prominently in the article:

Last summer, Wiseman co-led a seminar at the North Carolina Governor’s School called “The New Gay Teenager.” Jim Burrows, whose son attended the pro-homosexual seminar, believes it is clear the lesbian instructor is bent on indoctrinating young people with a favorable view of the homosexual lifestyle.

“This was an agenda that she had,” Burrows contends, “and she just basically took advantage of the situation that she was in to promote her agenda.” He says the lesbian instructor’s “New Gay Teenager” course influenced his son to question his sexuality and also to question Bible passages condemning homosexuality.

And the concerned father has reason to believe the seminar that led to his son’s experience was “obviously was not a one-time deal,” he contends. “Actually, we have had several other parents with kids who went to Governor’s School in past years that have told us that this went on there too,” he says. “In fact, this has been going on at Governor’s school for many years.”

Burrows believes Wiseman and other instructors at the North Carolina Governor’s School are committed to promoting homosexuality to children. For him, recent events have simply reinforced his suspicions about the lesbian teacher having a pro-homosexual agenda and being willing to use her position as an educator to carry it out.

In my opinion, the AgapePress article does nothing but paint Ms. Wiseman in the most negative light possible under these already negative media circumstances.

Although it is clear that Forsyth County District Attorney cannot and will not charge her or prosecute her, Ms. Wiseman’s name has already been ruined by persons who would like nothing more than to see all LGBT people puched back into the “closet” and forgotten, once again, by society.

What I don’t understand is how radical, right-wing Christians can preach against LGBT advocates and call them “recruiters” when everyone knows that these same Christians are doing the exact same things. Ever heard of YoungLife? They go into the schools and they try to “spread the word” about Christ. Ever heard of the Day of “Truth”? It is a knock-off of the Day of Silence in which students go around speaking about the “truth” that God can save� gays from their “unnatural” desires. It just seems a bit hypocritical to me for these right-wingers to complain about� “homosexual recruitment” when they are clearly in the schools recruiting students over to their own points of view also.

It really is sad that the story made its way into AgapePress. Now this whole thing will be read all over the country and radicals every where will be up in arms ready to fight for the honor of bigotry and hate. Blah.

The most up to date information regarding this issue can be found at: http://www.interstateq.com/?s=susan+wiseman

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According to an article published by 365gay.com News, an Ohio State Senator has introduced a bill which would ban adoptions by Republicans.

The bill, introduced by Senator Robert Hagan (D-Youngstown), is meant partly as a joke and partly to send a message on how ridiculous some Republicans have been in their fervor to ban adoption by LGBT citizens.

According to the article:

In an email sent to fellow legislators, and obtained by Knight Ridder Newspapers, Hagan says he’s looking for co-sponsors to “introduce legislation in the near future that would ban households with one or more Republican voters from adopting children or acting as foster parents.”

Earlier this month a bill to ban gays, bisexuals, and transgenderds from adopting was proposed by 10 far-right Republicans. It was introduced in the House this month by state Rep. Ron Hood (R-Ashville)Â

“We need to see what we are doing,” said Hagan, who called Hood’s proposed bill blatantly discriminatory and “homophobic.”

When Hood introduced his gay adoption ban he said that, “Studies have shown that the optimal setting to raise children in is a traditional setting with a mom and a dad.”

Hood claims that children raised in gay households are at “increased risk” of physical and emotional problem.

In Hagan’s email to fellow lawmaker’s he skewers Hood’s assertions, offering his own “credible research” shows that adopted children raised in Republican households are more at risk for developing “emotional problems, social stigmas, inflated egos, and alarming lack of tolerance for others they deem different than themselves and an air of overconfidence to mask their insecurities.”

Hagan admits that he knows his bill has no chance of ever reaching the floor. The chances of the bill passing are even lower. The same has been said about the bill on LGBT adoptions but the message against anti-LGBT discrimination is still being made.

========

HaHa… I think Sen. Hagan is getting his message across. He uses the same (no)logic as the Republicans when they take steps to discriminate against gays.

Although I can appreciate Sen. Hagan’s move to “show up” the Republicans I also think that he shouldn’t be playing and making jokes on time which belongs solely to the running of state business.

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The Health and Human Services Department of the United States of America is being questioned by a member of Congress after a website conting LGBT-inclusive advise was taken down. (source)

Supposedly, HHS removed the site on January 11, 2006, after receiving a letter (which was also published) from the anti-gay group Family Research Council. The letter was sent to the Secretary of the HSS, Michael Leavitt and complained that the website was “loaded with biased, politically-charged language, such as condemnations of so-called ‘homophobia,’ ‘heterosexism,’ and ‘sexual prejudice'”.

According to the article:

The FRC (Family Research Council)Â demanded a prompt response from Leavitt. It also called on its members to contact the agency and complain that the site “uses material from pro-homosexual activist groups such as … Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) … ”

When the site was removed the FRC immediately proclaimed victory and cited a letter from Leavitt’s office indicating that the content had been removed because it was not within the mission of HHS.

“This shouldn’t be about politics or fringe ideology. It should be about the responsibility of the government to provide complete, accurate and accessible health information that serves all Americans effectively, including our GLBT loved ones,” said Jody M. Huckaby, PFLAG’s executive director.

“HHS has removed basic health information on one site at the demands of an extremist group, and has completely omitted all content about GLBT youth on another. This is outrageous and unacceptable.”

Representative Tammy Baldwin, a Democrat from the State of Wisconsin, last week stood up to question the actions of HHS.

Rep. Baldwin is one of only three openly gay or lesbian members of the Congress. Representative Barney Frank (D-Mass) and Representative Jim Kolbe (R-Arizona) are the other openly gay members. (It must be noted that while gays and lesbians make up anywhere between 4%, at the lowest, and 10%, at the highest, of the total population, we are only representative by a total of 0.7% of Congress)

Rep. Baldwin is currently circulating a letter within Congress and among her colleagues. The letter calls for the material on LGBT health to be reinstated by HHS.

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As first reported to the public by my blog, no charges will be made in the situation involving Susan Wiseman and allegations of misconduct with a student. Forsyth County District Attorney Tom Keith will not be pursuing the case.

Ms. Wiseman, a teacher at East Forsyth High School, is still suspended without pay by the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School System, whose investigation of the matter is still unresolved.

The School System’s investigation is completely separate from the police investigation.

The Winston-Salem Journal article concerning the matter is below:

Accused teacher won’t be charged

Student, 17, doesn’t want to prosecute, Forsyth DA says

Journal Reporters: Dan Galindo & Danielle DeaverÂ

No charges will be brought against a teacher at East Forsyth High School who was accused of having a sexual relationship with a student, District Attorney Tom Keith said yesterday.

“All I can tell you is the victim does not want to prosecute, we have no other evidence, and we’ve closed the matter,” Keith said.

Susan Wiseman, 27, a social-studies teacher in her fourth year at East Forsyth, was suspended without pay on Feb. 1.

Officials with Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools said that Wiseman is still suspended without pay. They would not release the status of their own investigation into the allegation.

Keith ‘s decision will not affect the school system, Superintendent Don Martin said.

“It’s two separate investigations,” Martin said. “Obviously, we’re both interested in the facts of the matter, but employment and criminal matters are two separate things.”

The school system won’t make a decision until at least early next month. Wiseman’s attorney, Carl Parrish, requested a 30-day extension of the suspension, starting in early February, Martin said.

Martin said he wants to finish the investigation and have a recommendation ready for school-board members before he talks to them about the case, possibly as early as the March 14 meeting.

They have not talked about it yet, he said.

A decision to fire Wiseman would require a vote by the school board. Its approval would not be needed if Martin decided to end the suspension and allow Wiseman to return to the classroom.

Nearly all details of the case – including the student’s age, the teacher’s name, age, place of employment and employment status – were initially sealed by a Feb. 3 order by Judge Lisa Menefee of Forsyth District Court.

Keith said that his office sought the order so that it would have time to investigate without media scrutiny.

Menefee rescinded her order the same day that the Winston-Salem Journal filed a motion calling the order “manifestly unconstitutional” and asking that it be overturned. Keith said that the Journal’s motion had nothing to do with the order being rescinded.

Once case documents were unsealed, the school system identified Wiseman and said that she had been suspended.

Police released these details of the case:

A 17-year-old student had told police that she had a sexual relationship with her teacher, according to the initial investigation report. The Journal generally does not identify a person making an allegation of sexual assault.

The accusation, reported Jan. 26, was that the sexual activity happened some time between February and May 2005. Police did not give an exact location where the student said that it happened but listed the same block as an address for the teacher in Ardmore, according to a search of online records.

Part of the initial police report asks the victim and others involved if they want to prosecute.

An officer checked “No” for the student.

“Yes” was checked for two other people involved: the student’s mother and the school system’s attorney, Doug Punger.

Chris Clifton, an attorney representing the student’s family, said that the family came to the decision that it did not want charges pressed.

“In (the mother’s) words, she doesn’t want to see her child get any more publicity or attention than she’s gotten,” Clifton said.

“In no way do they want the fact that they don’t want to go forward with the criminal charges … make anyone believe that nothing happened,” he added.

Wiseman declined comment yesterday, referring questions to Parrish, her attorney, who did not return phone calls.

Wiseman has been open about working with gay students and her interest in gay issues. She was a member of PFLAG, Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. She also was an instructor at a seminar about “The New Gay Teenager” at last year’s Governor’s School.

Wiseman led a support group for teenagers until the allegations were made, said the Rev. Susan Parker, a local gay activist.

“She decided that she wanted to step away from that until these allegations are cleared,” Parker said.

Parker said that the situation has been frustrating.

“Here’s a teacher with master- teacher certification who’s sitting on the sidelines at a time when we need every teacher we can get, particularly master teachers like Susan. I would think it would be incumbent on the legal system to move forward with this as quickly as possible,” she said.

Should it really come as any surprise that Punger, one of the most anti-gay employees of the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School System, wanted to prosecute Ms. Wiseman? Anyone who has been involved in LGBT advocacy in the schools knows that Punger has done nothing but make life harder for LGBT students and their allies. At every turn and in every situation there was one constant I could always count on while I was a student in Winston: Punger would be there, standing in the way and planting barriers in front of any and all measures which could be even remotely considered LGBT-inclusive.

I echo the Revered Susan Parker’s statements, however. Not only can the state not afford to lose a great (and innocent) teacher like Ms. Wiseman, LGBT students cannot afford to lose their only advocate who also happens to be an employee of the very system and institution which is lead by those who would like nothing more than to see all homosexual “sinners” receive their just reward.

EDIT: The most up to date information regarding this issue can be found at: http://www.onlinegreensboro.com/~matthillnc/?s=susan+wiseman

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