Americans Are Tired of the Politics of Personal Destruction, Says TWO
Truth Wins Out criticized the on-going smear campaign that anti-gay organizations and politicians are orchestrating against Kevin Jennings, who is serving as the Assistant Deputy Secretary of Education for the Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools.
"We are witnessing a disgraceful political hit job filled with baseless allegations, ugly innuendo and outright homophobia," said Truth Wins Out Executive Director Wayne Besen. "Kevin Jennings is a hero that has saved the lives of many students and is eminently qualified for his position. Thanks to his work, countless gay youth were able to concentrate on scholastic success instead of basic survival or even suicide."
The groundless attacks intensified after fifty-three House Republicans signed a letter to the Obama administration asking for the dismissal of Jennings. "As the founder of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, Mr. Jennings has played an integral role in promoting homosexuality and pushing a pro-homosexual agenda in America's schools -- an agenda that runs counter to the values that many parents desire to instill in their children," the lawmakers write.
"Jennings 'real agenda' was promoting tolerance and stopping children from essentially getting mugged in schools because of their real or perceived sexual orientation," said Besen. "These attempts to slime Jennings have nothing to do with his exemplary record or qualifications. Instead, extremists are trying to use Jennings as a proxy to further their culture war.
"When America elected Barack Obama," Besen continued, "they wanted to end the politics of personal destruction and transcend politics as usual. People are tired of the lies, distortions and roaring rhetoric and it is time that anti-gay activists retire such tactics."
The smears began when right wing media outlets irresponsibly reported that Jennings counseled a fifteen-year-old student who was allegedly having a relationship with a twenty-four year old man. They claimed he instructed the young man to use a condom, while he should have reported the illegal relationship to the authorities.
However, the truth is, the young man was actually 16, the legal age of consent, and no sexual relations actually occurred. The suggestion of condom use, if the young man had chosen to be sexually active, was appropriate, given the alternative was that he may have contracted HIV if he was ignorant on how to protect himself.
Media Matters tracked down the young man in question, Brewster, who said:
"In 1988, I had taken a bus home for the weekend, and on the return trip met someone who was also gay. The next day, I had a conversation with Mr. Jennings about it. I had no sexual contact with anybody at the time, though I was entirely legally free to do so. I was a sixteen year-old going through something most of us have experienced: adolescence.
"I find it regrettable that the people who have the compassion and integrity to protect our nation's students are themselves in need of protection from homophobic smear attacks. Were it not for Mr. Jennings' courage and concern for my well-being at that time in my life, I doubt I'd be the proud gay man that I am today."
"It is beyond ridiculous that Jennings is being criticized for giving advice on a legal relationship that never even occurred," said TWO's Wayne Besen. "These abusive attacks are immoral and despicable and show that the modern Republican Party must resort to below the belt politics to hold onto its dwindling support.
"It is surreal that the GOP is once again posing as the party of family values," continued Besen "One would think they were too busy walking the Appalachian Trail or applauding the 'family values' of Sens. David Vitter and John Ensign to even notice Jennings. Why is a party that is a billboard for bad behavior still preaching to America? Jennings is an outstanding educator and upstanding citizen. He should be left alone to do his job and educate America's children."
At the meeting were gay leaders Supervisor Bevan Dufty, who arranged the meeting, Rebecca Rolfe, executive director of the SF gay community center, Andrea Shorter of Equality California and myself. Also present was Supervisor Eric Mar, a progressive straight leader in the Asian community, and, of course, Buju and Tracii McGregor, president of his music company. About ten minutes into the meeting in the hotel lobby of where the singer is staying, some of his p.r. people joined the conversation.
I was proud to have marched alongside tens of thousands of like-minded GLBT people and allies to celebrate our lives and demand full equality. We are at a unique moment, where the Democrats rule Capitol Hill and occupy the White House. Those who marched want to seize this special moment and pass legislation while we are in the majority. The weekend was Democracy in action and it certainly energized the young people -- who will be our advocates and champions of tomorrow.
The march was the perfect complement to the Human Rights Campaign dinner, featuring Barack Obama. The two events combined to capture the attention of the national media and offered a platform to make our case directly to the President, Congress and the American people.
In this effort, I appeared on FOX's O'Reilly Factor and twice on MSNBC. Other GLBT advocates made the media rounds -- and by doing so, there was no doubt that the President, or at least key aides heard our voices. We were also able to illustrate to fair-minded Americans why we are impatient to gain equality.
The march may not have been as large as those of yesteryear. But, it achieved its desired effect, because it put a spotlight on our issues at a key moment in history and let the Washington establishment know that NOW is the time to take action.
The festivities also served as a great contrast between our civilized, mature behavior and that of the extremist teabaggers, who behaved like tantrum throwing infants. Indeed, once could see the moral depravity of our opponents at the march with their infantile "Sodomy Truck" and hateful rhetoric -- thinly disguised as "love".
Our job, as activists, is to keep pushing Congress and the Obama Administration to take action and end our second-class citizenship. Please join us in our quest for full equality.