From: Beyond Chron, CA, USA
Republished with the permission of Tommi Avicolli-Mecca
by Tommi Avicolli-Mecca‚ Oct. 06‚ 2009
The latest Republican right-wing attack on an Obama Administration official reveals just how vicious and uncaring these purveyors of traditional values really are. After going after environmental advisor Van Jones and National Endowment for the Arts spokesperson Yosi Sargent, the homophobic Christian right is accusing Kevin Jennings, the head of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools, of condoning statutory rape and child molestation.
The charges would be laughable, except that they’re being taken seriously by millions of viewers of that bastion of right-wing Christian advocacy journalism — Fox News.
The allegations stem from a 15-minute conversation Jennings had 21 years ago in Massachusetts with a 16-year-old gay student, who told him of a meeting he had with an older gay man. Conservatives say that by not reporting the conversation to authorities, Jennings, an out gay man who was a teacher at the time, was shielding child molestation.
One important fact they’re missing is that 16 was, and still is, the age of consent in Massachusetts. The student had the legal right to engage in sex with the adult. On top of it all, the 16-year-old and the older man never even had any intimate contact.
The former student, calling himself Brewster, recently clarified the situation to CNN, “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 16-year-old going through something most of us have experienced: adolescence.”
“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,” Brewster said, laying to rest any doubt that the 16-year-old boy was harmed in any way, shape or form by Jennings’ advice that day.
No doubt the Family Research Council, a right-wing group, is not comforted by the thought that Brewster is now a proud gay man. The group attacked Jennings for being a founder of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, and for being in charge of implementing the Congressional bill on bullying and harassment in schools. The group sees cutting down on bullying and harassment as “a worthy goal,” but “naming ‘sexual orientation’ and ‘gender identity’ as protected categories makes this bill more about advancing the homosexual agenda than keeping schools safe.” Huh?
When will these neanderthals get it through their thick skulls that bullying and harassment on the basis of perceived sexual orientation and/or gender identity is a major problem in schoolyards across America? “Faggot” is still one of the most popular putdowns. Kids thought to be queer or transgender are put through hell. There is no way to address bullying and harassment without talking about sexual orientation and gender identity.
It’s obvious that right-wingers care more about advancing their own agenda than they do about queer kids. Otherwise, this wouldn’t be an issue.
Jennings helped a gay teen. It was the right thing to do. Bringing the authorities into the picture 21 years ago was unnecessary, Brewster was of legal age to consent.
Jennings should not resign and President Obama should support him. To give validity to the right-wing’s charges is to condone the abuse that LBGT youth suffer every day.
Tommi Avicolli Mecca is co-editor of Avanti Popolo: Italians Sailing Beyond Columbus, and editor of Smash the Church, Smash the State: The Early Years of Gay Liberation, which has just been nominated for an American Library Association award. His website is
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