Family Research Council leads fight against opponents of anti-gay bullying

››› ››› MATT GERTZ

Family Research Council president Tony Perkins recently suggested that gay youths who committed suicide after being bullied were actually responding to their "despair" after being told by gay-rights groups that "they are 'born gay' and can never change." The FRC has long sought to minimize anti-gay bullying and attacked those who seek to stop it.

Perkins: "Homosexual movement" responsible for gay youth suicides, now "exploiting" them

Perkins blamed GLBT rights groups like GLSEN -- which opposes anti-gay bullying -- for recent gay youth suicides. In an October 11 column published at The Washington Post's On Faith blog, Perkins attacked the Gay, Straight, and Lesbian Education Network (GLSEN), an organization that "strives to assure that each member of every school community is valued and respected regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression" and seeks to prevent anti-gay bullying in schools. Perkins claimed that because "mental health problems are higher among those who 'come out of the closet' at an earlier age," the group's "approach" of "encourag[ing] teens to 'come out' when younger and younger" is "likely exacerbating the very problem they claim they want to solve." He continued:

Some homosexuals may recognize intuitively that their same-sex attractions are abnormal -- yet they have been told by the homosexual movement, and their allies in the media and the educational establishment, that they are "born gay" and can never change. This -- and not society's disapproval -- may create a sense of despair that can lead to suicide.

Perkins attacked "homosexual activist groups like" GLSEN for "exploiting these tragedies." In his column, Perkins wrote that "[s]ome homosexual activist groups lay blame" for the suicides "at the feet of conservative Christians who teach that homosexual conduct is wrong," and commented that "homosexual activist groups like GLSEN (the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network) are exploiting these tragedies to push their agenda of demanding not only tolerance of homosexual individuals, but active affirmation of homosexual conduct and their efforts to redefine the family."

FRC leading charge against Jennings, head of anti-bullying Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools

Jennings, who leads government's anti-bullying activities, is a long-time advocate against anti-gay bullying in schools. On May 19, 2009, Education Secretary Arne Duncan appointed Kevin Jennings assistant deputy secretary of the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools, which "[p]articipate[s] in the formulation and development of ED program policy and legislative proposals and in overall Administration policies related to violence." According to his Department of Education bio, Jennings founded GLSEN in 1990 in order to "bring together lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) and straight teachers, parents, students, and community members who wanted to end anti-LGBT bias in the state's K-12 schools." The bio further states that "Under his leadership, GLSEN made safe schools into a national issue" and "increased by over 600 percent the number of students protected from harassment and discrimination based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity." As head of GLSEN, Jennings testified before the U.S. Senate on anti-bullying legislation and led the organization to work against anti-gay bullying in schools. At the Department of Education, Jennings has led federal efforts to prevent bullying.

FRC's website urges Jennings' removal. FRC has a microsite,, which instructs readers to call Duncan "and urge him to remove Kevin Jennings from the Department of Education." The website states that "Kevin Jennings has shown a disregard for parental rights and for our children's well-being, yet he is the President's choice to keep our schools safe!" The site also urges readers to contact their state school board to "let them know that this is unacceptable, and they need to let the President know: it is time Kevin Jennings resigns!"

FRC anti-Jennings "Talking Points": Jennings' "concept of 'safe schools' means special protections" for "homosexuals." features a link to a May 2009 FRC document titled "Talking Points: Why Homosexual Activist Kevin Jennings Is Not Fit for the Dept. of Education," which purports to detail "some key reasons why we believe Kevin Jennings is unfit for public service." The document specifically attacks Jennings for his focus on anti-gay bullying:

1) Jennings' and GLSEN's concept of "safe schools" means special protections for privileged groups (especially homosexuals), rather than safety for all.

Undoubtedly the key reason why Jennings was appointed was because of GLSEN's long-standing commitment to what they call "safe schools." GLSEN has published "Model State Anti-Bullying & Anti-Harrasment [sic] Legislation." However, it protects against "harassment" only on the basis of "distinguishing characteristics" such as "race, color, national origin, sex, gender, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, [and] religion." It does not even include the category which GLSEN itself has identified as the most common grounds for harassment: "the way they look or their body size." Why not define "harassment" and "bullying" on the basis of the nature of the actual conduct, rather than the characteristics of the victim?

The document further attacks Jennings because his "concept of 'safe schools' actually extends far beyond the prevention of 'harassment' and 'bullying' to active 'affirmation' and 'promotion' of homosexuality."

  • Anti-Jennings "Talking Points" authored by anti-gay bigot Sprigg. The document was written by FRC senior fellow Peter Sprigg. In a 2008 interview with Medill News Service, discussing a bill that would make it easier for gay and lesbian Americans to sponsor their foreign partners' citizenship, Sprigg said: "I would much prefer to export homosexuals from the United States than to import them into the United States because we believe that homosexuality is destructive to society." In a subsequent statement, Sprigg said he "used language that trivialized the seriousness of the issue and did not communicate respect for the essential dignity of every human being as a person created in the image of God" and apologized "for speaking in a way that did not reflect the standards which the Family Research Council and I embrace."
  • "Talking Points" doc cites anti-gay "hate group." The FRC document cites the work of MassResistance, which has been labeled a "hate group" by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Even conservative commentator Dean Barnett has stated that the organization "verges on being a hate group." The group's longtime leader Brian Camenke reportedly denied that gays and lesbians were targeted during the Holocaust and has compared the gay rights movement to the Nazis.

Perkins: Jennings "Unsafe for America's Schools" because "GLSEN's 'safe schools' ... single out homosexuals for more protection than others." In a June 29, 2009, Human Events column, Perkins wrote:

Jennings was undoubtedly chosen for this post (which does not require Senate confirmation) because the foundation of the homosexual education agenda is the concept of "safe schools." However, "safe schools" as GLSEN defines them are like "hate crime laws" for kids. GLSEN's model legislation would create protected categories like "sex, gender, . . . sexual orientation, [and] gender identity or expression." (Ironically, they don't include protection for the factor that GLSEN's own research shows is the most common reason for harassment of students -- "the way they look or their body size.") Everyone opposes violence, name-calling, and other forms of bullying. As with "hate crimes," though, GLSEN's "safe schools" do not protect everyone equally, but instead single out homosexuals for more protection than others.

Perkins concluded that Jennings is "unfit for the post to which he's been assigned, and Secretary Duncan should withdraw his appointment at once."

Perkins opposed expanding scope of Jennings' office "to include 'bullying'"

Perkins: "'[B]ullying' and 'harassment'" are "best addressed at the level of the individual classroom, school, or school district," not at federal level. In an October 28, 2009, letter to Duncan, Perkins wrote that he had received an invitation to "participate in a discussion" on the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools the next day, and that rather than attend, he was choosing to submit written recommendations. Those recommendations included opposition to "any efforts to expand" the office's "scope to include 'bullying' or 'harassment'":

Recommendation #2--Maintain the office's focus on preventing actual school violence, and oppose any efforts to expand its scope to include "bullying" or "harassment."

Throughout the "Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act" of both 1994 and 2002, the "safe schools" emphasis is on preventing actual acts of violence. While "bullying" and "harassment" may indeed be significant problems in social interactions between students, the

Family Research Council believes that these issues are best addressed at the level of the individual classroom, school, or school district, rather than expanding the scope of federal control over schools.

Therefore, I would urge you to reject the recommendation of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) -- the organization which Kevin Jennings founded and led until last year -- that we should invest "greater federal resources in bullying and harassment prevention activities." I also urge you to publicly oppose H.R. 2262, introduced by Rep. Linda T. Sanchez, which would "amend the Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act to include bullying and harassment prevention activities."

Perkins attacked GLSEN in criticism of Office putting focus on "special categories." In his letter, Perkins wrote:

Recommendation #3--Ensure that "safe schools" programs are designed to provide protection for all students, rather than creating special categories of protection.

Surely we can agree that all students deserve to attend "safe schools" that are free of violence.

Therefore, I urge you to reject initiatives such as the model legislation proposed under Mr. Jennings' leadership at GLSEN -- namely, to create special categories of protection such as "a student's actual or perceived race, color, national origin, sex, gender, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, religion, or any other distinguishing characteristics..."

It seems likely that students targeted based on one of the enumerated characteristics are more likely to be consistently protected than those targeted because of "other distinguishing characteristics" that are not enumerated. Ironically, the enumerated categories of protection in GLSEN's model legislation do not even include the category which GLSEN itself has identified as the most common grounds for "harassment" of students:

The reason most commonly cited for being harassed frequently is a student's appearance, as four in ten (39%) teens report that students are frequently harassed for the way they look or their body size.

And under policies like that proposed by GLSEN, those who are targeted for reasons having nothing to do with "distinguishing characteristics" (for example, to steal their lunch money) would not be protected at all. We should extend protection to all students based on the nature of the victimizing conduct, rather than the characteristics of the victim.

FRC minimizes extent of anti-gay bullying, opposes discrimination bans

FRC's Sprigg: "[T]here is evidence that harassment of 'gay' teens" is not as bad "as some pro-homosexual rhetoric would suggest." Responding to what he called contentions from "[p]ro-homosexual activists" that GLBT "students are frequent victims of verbal or physical harassment or even acts of violence," Sprigg writes in the FRC pamphlet "Homosexuality in Your Child's School": "Yet there is evidence that harassment of 'gay' teens may neither be as frequent, as severe, nor as dispro­portionate, as some pro-homosexual rhetoric would suggest."

FRC criticizes school policies banning discrimination against students on the basis of sexual orientation. In "Homosexuality in Your Child's School," Sprigg writes:

Pro-homosexual activists also promote policies that forbid "discrimination" against students or teachers on the basis of "sexual orientation."

However, singling out "sexual orientation" for special protection (along with the usual categories of "race, color, national origin, sex, and disability") is illogical. The latter qualities are usually inborn, involuntary, immutable, and innocuous -- none of which is true of homosexual behavior, despite the claims of its advocates.

Nevertheless, pro-homosexual activists believe that homosexuals should be permitted not only to teach, but to proclaim their sexual preference openly.

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