Stop Hate 2000 April 21, 2008

If the Church, after the victory over apartheid, is looking for a worthy moral crusade, then this is it; the fight against homophobia and heterosexism.” Archbishop Desmond Tutu cited in The No-Nonsense Guide to Sexual Diversity, by Vanessa Baird. Available from
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April 25 is the Day of Silence. On the Day of Silence, students protest queer people are treated by remaining silent for the day. During the Day of Silence, many students in schools and colleges protest bullying and name calling aimed at gay, lesbian, bisexual, and trans-identified students. In 2008, the Day of Silence is a special time to remember Lawrence King, a gay teenager who was murdered in school. Unfortunately, the Christian right in the United States is organizing a boycott of the Day of Silence. According to news reports, the American Family Association is encouraging parents to keep their children home April 25. An article about the boycott can be read on the Gay.Com news network. This is a sad commentary of the strength of faith of those Christians who have such weak faith they feel they must keep their children home, so their children will not see a silent protest.
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This is an editorial from our Stop Homophobia web site. Other editorials can be found by clicking on Editorials on the Stop Hate web site.

The phone rang early Sunday morning. I was awake, so the phone call did not disturb me, but I was left wondering who would be phoning me early Sunday morning. The call had to be important, because my phone does not ring early Sunday mornings.

The voice of a friend told me I had to read an article in the Edmonton Journal. The article titled “Reluctant gay rights hero seeks serenity abroad” by Sheila Pratt was about Delwin Vriend, a gay man who won a Supreme Court of Canada ruling that protects gay people from discrimination in the work place.

The title caught my attention. My mind was going a thousand miles and hour. I found myself staring into the air, pen in hand, unable to put thoughts on paper. The words “reluctant hero” kept running through my mind. I could not shake the words “reluctant hero.” Somehow, “reluctant hero” seems much more appropriate and accurate than “gay agenda.”

Nobody sets out to be a human rights hero. People do not have dream of being hated, rejected, persecuted, gay bashed, or murdered. Martin Luther King, Jr. did not have a life-long goal to be a human rights hero. He did not decide at the point of conception that it would be a wonderful thing to be born a black man in the United States, to face discrimination, to lead human rights marches, and to be murdered because he wanted equality for black people. Judy Shepard did not want to become an activist. That was not her purpose in life. She was thrown into the role, after her son was murdered in a hate crime. Members of visible and invisible minority groups do not grow up wanting to be human rights heros. They want to be treated like other people. They do not want to be victims of hate crimes, prejudice, or discrimination. All they want is a level playing field, the ability to work and live with the same benefits everybody else in society takes for granted.

To be a civil rights hero, a person has to have seen or experienced enough hate, and discrimination to stand up and say, “Enough is enough. No more.” When people refuse to silently take abuse, prejudice, and discrimination, and advocate for changes, they are human rights heros. Many human rights heros never receive any of the praise they earned.

Human rights heros are not just the people fighting for equality. Friends and family members who support the struggle for equality are also human rights heros. Dennis and Ruth Vriend, Delwin’s parents, are also human rights heros. Mrs. Vriend is quoted in the Edmonton Journal article as saying people would approach them at farmers’ markets and ask, “Would you be our mum and dad?”

Delwin Vriend was an instructor at Kings College in Edmonton, Canada. He was fired because he was gay. Delwin is a Canadian human rights hero, because he wanted what everybody wants - his job. He was prepared to fight for rights, and to not give up. Delwin took his case to the Alberta Human Rights Commission. Because sexual orientation was not protected by human rights legislation in Alberta, the Human Rights Commission declined to help him. Not giving up, Delwin went to the court system. In 1994, an Alberta court ruled that sexual orientation must be included in Alberta’s human rights legislation. The Alberta Government did not want gay rights protected, so the Alberta Government appealed the decision to the Alberta Court of Appeal. The Appeal Court ruled in favor of the Alberta Government. Delwin Vriend appealed that ruling to the Supreme Court of Canada. In 1998, roughly 17 years after he was fired, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that sexual orientation must be read into Alberta human rights legislation, even though Alberta’s human rights legislation did not expressly cover sexual orientation.

A week after reading the Edmonton Journal article, a panel of people, including Delwin Vriend, were interviewed regarding the landmark Supreme Court of Canada ruling. A lawyer described the ruling as one of the top 10 Canadian Charter of Rights rulings in the past 30 years. A representative from the Canadian Jewish Congress said to the effect that the Jewish Congress felt defending the rights of gay people was important in helping protect Jewish rights in Canada, so the Canadian Jewish Congress was an intervener in the Supreme Court of Canada case.

Delwin Vriend, the “reluctant gay rights hero,” a man who wanted to keep his job, ended up being a man who helped establish rights for gay people, and helped set legal precedents that could be used to protect the human rights of other minority groups. Reluctant or not, Delwin Vriend is a gay rights hero.
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Recently, a video made in 1991 surfaced and got two Canadian political leaders in political hot water. The video shows the current Premier of the province of Saskatchewan, and a man who is currently serving as a Conservative Member of Parliament making comments that are troubling. Tom Lukiwski, the Conservative Member of Parliament, makes homophobic remarks on the video. According to news reports on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation web site, Lukiwski described gay men as “homosexual faggots with dirt under their fingernails who spread diseases.” Tom Lukiwski apologized for his remarks. Even though there have been some calls for Lukiwski’s resignation, the Conservative Party is supporting Lukiwski, because he apologized, and the Party feels he no longer holds the views expressed in the 1991 video.

An article on the Canada.Com network provides more details. According to the article, the current Premier of Saskatchewan, Brad Wall, who appeared in the same video in which Lukiwski made homophobic remarks, mocks Roy Romanow, who was the leader of the New Democrats, using an eastern European accent. A Canadian Press article on The Star.Com web site indicates Brad Wall was making fun of Roy Romanow’s Ukrainian heritage. A Globe and Mail article indicates both politicians apologized for the inappropriate comments they made on the video.

News stories about the video raise important questions about how accountable people should be held for comments they made years ago. Societal attitudes toward racism, bullying, and gay people have changed significantly in the last twenty years. Should political officials who made very racist or homophobic remarks many years ago face discipline from their political parties, if those officials no longer hold those views and appear to be sorry for the pain their remarks caused.
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Unfortunately, Canadian political leaders were not the only political leaders who made very controversial comments. One American official made homophobic comments that deeply offended the gay community.

Oklahoma State Representative Sally Kern gave a speech that contained highly homophobic comments. A You Tube clip of the speech contains about three minutes worth of very anti-gay comments. In the speech, the Oklahoma Representative claims the gay agenda is destroying the United States of America. She said she the gay agenda is a bigger threat to the United States than terrorism of Islam. In an Associated Press article on the FoxNews.Com web site, she is quoted as saying, "I honestly think it's the biggest threat that our nation has, even more so than terrorism or Islam, which I think is a big threat.” Kern claimed gays are “infiltrating” city councils in the United States. She said the compares homosexuality to a disease, to cancer, which needs to be “cut out.” In the speech, Sally Kern points to the higher suicide rate in the gay community and seems to blame those suicides on the gay life style. In reality, gay suicides are more likely to be caused by homophobic attitudes and homophobic actions than they are to being gay. A video containing an audio clip of Sally Kern’s comments can be found on the You Tube system.
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Bullies degrade and terrorize their victims. The more public the act, the more the victim has been degraded. The internet has become one form of degrading victims.

In what seems like the ultimate act of bullying, the ultimate act of hurting and dehumanizing another eight teenagers are reported to have lured 16 year old Victoria Lindsay to a home, where she was beaten up by six teenaged girls, while two teenaged boys watched to make sure nobody could intervene to assist the victim. The assault was video taped and news reports say the attackers intended on posting the video on You Tube. Details about the injuries Victoria suffered and the crimes with which the accused have been charged can be read on the WFTV.Com web site. An AP article on the Brisbane Times web site, after the attack, the teens are reported to have driven the victim to another location. They told her she would be beaten even worse if she contacted the police. An NBC news clip on You Tube shows short segments of the video, while another NBC news clip on You Tube reports the victim was video taped while being beaten and yelled at for half an hour.

Victoria Lindsay’s parents describe some of the injuries Victoria received, and react to the attack on a video posted on the You Tube system. They blame You Tube and other internet web sites for what happened. Bullying is not caused by the internet. The internet is one medium used by bullies to degrade and dehumanize their victims. The parents appear to blame You Tube and other internet web sites for the attack. Blaming this serious attack on the internet lessens responsibility for the actions of the teenagers responsible for the assault.

Philip DeFranco is a popular You Tube commentator. He reacts with justified anger over this extreme case of bullying. While we do not support an eye-for-an-eye concept of justice, we feel his video does an excellent job of explaining how extreme bullying impacts on a person’s pride and self-respect.
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A few stories we’ve been following appear below:

•TheAdvocate News carries a story about a gay man who was violently attacked in Florida. According to the article, the man was attacked less than a full day after a gay teenager was murdered in the same county of Florida.

•African lesbian leaders are planning to host a conference for Mozambique to discuss queer rights and issues in Africa. The entire article is on the PlanetOut web site.

•A gay Iranian teenager was granted temporary asylum in the United Kingdom. Gay men and women have been executed in Iran, so we applaud the United Kingdom’s action. An article on the Advocate News network provides more information.

•An Advocate News article reports a gay man in Wisconsin received a settlement for being physically assaulted.

We want to thank the many people who sent us videos related to hate. A few videos on topics related to hate appears below:

•EraseHate08 has a You Tube video “I Want a President!” about the traits wanted in a president. The bottom line of the video is that we need a president who will pass a hate crimes law that protects gay people. Another video by EraseHate08, “Erase Hate - One Person at a Time,” challenges people to look inside themselves and find the source of their hate.

Being Straight Doesn’t Give us the Right to Hate” is a You Tube video by ThoughtfulStar. In the You Tube video, ThoughtfulStar, who identifies as a straight ally of the gay community, encourages people to not hate or discriminate against gay people. In another video, “Some People are Gay, Get Over It!,” ThoughtfulStar helps people re-evaluate their homophobia by helping people see that gay people experience love, fear, happiness, sadness, and have hopes and dreams just like everybody else.

Anybody with news about hate crimes or discrimination is welcome to email us.

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