March 27, 2006
For some weeks now, a group of students have been traveling across the
country to draw attention to colleges that exclude gays and lesbians.
Organized by Mel White's Soulforce, the Equality Ride students have endured
everything from minor harassment to outright arrest as they tried to engage
other students at these discriminatory colleges in dialogue.
In Oklahoma they stopped at the Oklahoma Baptist University in Shawnee where,
this time, there were no police waiting to take them into custody the moment
they stepped off the bus. But as the students finished up their stay in
Oklahoma, the Oklahoma state school board sent it's own message to them, and
to glbt students across the state, overturning a policy that had protecting
gay students from discrimination from teachers.
The previous policy said that teachers could not deny benefits to any
student, or grant any advantage to any student, based on sexual
orientation. The new policy simply requires teachers to comply with all
federal and state anti-discrimination laws. It's about as cynical as it gets
with red state bigots: Federal and state laws, of course, do not protect
students on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
On the surface the new policy is limited to the actions of teachers, but in
practice it gives the green light to any and all students who want to make
school life hell for their gay and lesbian peers. By very publicly
withdrawing protections from gay and lesbian kids, the school board is
giving adult teachers permission to degrade and harass children in their
care. They're telling every bully in the state that they won't mind if they
take a few swings at those kids, so long as they do it in front of a teacher
who doesn't mind either. And they're doing it, in the name of morals and
State Representative republican (surprise, surprise) Kevin Calvey of Del City,
later said that prior arrests of Soulforce equality riders were proof that
the regulation needed to be changed, to "protect" students from LGBT activist
groups. But the regulation spoke to the student teacher relationship, not to
the rights of non-students visiting any state campus. What the homophobes of
Oklahoma did was deliberately, cynically, sickeningly, encourage teachers to
either abuse gay kids themselves, or silently condone it, in retribution for
Soulforce's visit to religious colleges. This is what passes for Christianity
in the heartland.
Copyright © March 27, 2006 by Bruce Garrett
All Rights Reserved.
Bruce Garrett Cartoon. Weekly gay editorial cartoon.
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