Wednesday, September 29, 2010

"Anti-Gay Industry Responsible For Creating Hostile Climate That Leads To Tragedy"

TWO Deeply Saddened By Three Gay Teen September Suicides Resulting From School Bullying

by Wayne Besen for Truth Wins Out:

NEW YORK – Truth Wins Out expressed a sense of deep sorrow and loss as news of three gay teen suicides in September rocked the LGBT movement. In each case, the victim was a target of relentless harassment and bullying by school peers. Truth Wins Out blames the anti-gay industry and negligent school officials for creating a hostile climate that places lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students at risk for psychological abuse, violence and suicide.

“Our hearts go out to the families of these young men and we feel a deep sense of sorrow and regret for these needless tragedies,” said Truth Wins Out’s Executive Director Wayne Besen. “We blame the anti-gay industry for fighting measures to end bullying in schools, and school officials who turn a blind eye to brutality. We are fed up with what amounts to anti-gay schoolyard muggings that are foolishly dismissed as ‘boys being boys’. In reality, it is ‘boys beating boys’, and these bullies receive tacit approval for their violent, homophobic behavior by teachers and certain vocal segments of society.”

Through their annual “Day of Truth” campaign and web site, Focus on the Family and the “ex-gay” group Exodus International actively and continuously obstruct anti-bullying programs in schools across the country. Instead of opposing violence, both organizations remain dedicated to pretending the problem of anti-gay bullying does not exist, or downplaying the deadly results.

“The goal of Exodus International and Focus on the Family is to purge LGBT people from society, although they disingenuously frame the issue as eliminating homosexuality, which is not possible,” said Truth Wins Out’s Executive Director Wayne Besen. “When you target homosexuality, the result is persecution and punishment of LGBT people, and in many cases it leads to gay bashing or suicides. The anti-gay industry should dismantle these despicable programs and work towards creating solutions instead of suicides.”

In September, there have been three gay teen suicides as a result of school bullying:

* Seth Walsh, the Bakersfield, CA 13-year-old who hanged himself from a tree in his back yard after years of being bullied, died Tuesday afternoon after nine days on life support. Police investigators interviewed some of the young people who taunted Seth the day he hanged himself. “Several of the kids that we talked to broke down into tears,” Police Chief Jeff Kermode said. “They had never expected an outcome such as this.”

* Asher Brown, 13, an eighth-grader killed himself last week. He shot himself in the head after enduring what his mother and stepfather say was constant harassment from four other students at Hamilton Middle School in the Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District in Houston Texas. Brown, his family said, was “bullied to death” — picked on for his small size, his religion and because he did not wear designer clothes and shoes. Kids also accused him of being gay, some of them performing mock gay acts on him in his physical education class, his mother and stepfather said.

* Billy (William) Lucas, 15, a student at Greensburg Community High School in Greensburg, IN, was found dead in a barn at his grandmother’s home Thursday evening — he had hanged himself. Friends say that he had been tormented for years. “He was threatened to get beat up every day,” friend and classmate Nick Hughes said. “Sometimes in classes, kids would act like they were going to punch him and stuff and push him. Some people at school called him names,” Hughes said, saying most of those names questioned Lucas’ sexual orientation.

“This insanity must stop and all school districts must commit to making school safe for LGBT students,” said TWO’s Besen. “It is inexcusable and unconscionable that bullying is tolerated in this day and age. Those responsible for allowing such tragedies to occur should be held responsible.”

Truth Wins Out is a non-profit organization that fights anti-LGBT religious extremism. TWO monitors anti-LGBT organizations, documents their misinformation and exposes their leaders as charlatans. TWO specializes in turning information into action by organizing, advocating and fighting for LGBT equality.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Oil City Council Proclaims Day of Recognition for "Fair and Equal Treatment for All People"


Fairness and Equality Proclamation Signed by Oil City Council

City council members signed a proclamation Monday night that designated the day (Sept. 13) as Joe Wilson Day. The tribute refers to former Oil City resident Joe Wilson who with his partner Dean Hamer, directed and produced the award winning film “Out in the Silence.”

The film celebrates diverse lifestyles and was shot in Oil City and the surrounding area.

Joe Wilson’s film shows Oil City to the rest of the country as a town capable of positive change and documents progress in fair and equal treatment for all people in this community,” notes the proclamation.

Council was asked in June by local resident George Cooley to adopt a formal human rights policy and to embrace Wilson’s film on tolerance in small towns. The documentary tells the story of a gay high school student and explores small-town reaction to same-sex marriage.

"Many important topics were discussed at last night's City Council meeting," said Colley, "but we were proud to see the Oil City Council sign the proclamation. This is a first step in a marketing attitude toward our city. It is also a step towards a progressive Human Rights Initiative."

"A Special Blend of People"

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Event Featuring Diane Gramley and the AFAofPA Slanders Gays and Promotes Violence Against Transgender Persons

Dispatch from Coudersport, PA

by Joe Wilson, August, 31, 2010:

Diane Gramley sat peacefully behind Robert Wagner in the Coudersport Public Library as the retired physician shared his views on transgender individuals with the assembled audience. “I'm gonna put a ball bat in my car,” he said, “and if I ever see a guy [Wagner refuses to use proper pronouns] coming out of a bathroom that my granddaughter's in, I'm gonna use the ball bat on him.”

Moments later he added: “In the good old days, before 'she-males' existed, they just called such people perverts.”

Gramley is no stranger to such ideas. As President of the Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Family Association, a 'traditional family values' organization based in Mississippi, she spends much of her time planting similar seeds of suspicion about the dangers posed by “men who think they are women,” her disparaging term for transgender females. She also crusades relentlessly against what she and the AFA call the “homosexual agenda” and the type of legal protections that her and Dr. Wagner's threatening rhetoric suggests are needed for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.

Gramley was in Coudersport, a small town of 2,600 residents in the sparsely populated north-central part of the state known as the Pennsylvania Wilds, as a special guest of Dr. Wagner for what he titled “A Bible Believing Christian's Response to OUT IN THE SILENCE,” my documentary film about the quest for inclusion, fairness and equality for LGBT people in the small town where I was born and raised, Oil City, PA, just a two-hour drive from Coudersport.

Gramley, who also happens to call the Oil City area home, plays a central role in OUT IN THE SILENCE as a result of the firestorm of controversy she helped to ignite in opposition to the publication of my same-sex marriage announcement in the local paper. It was that controversy that compelled my partner, Dean Hamer, and I to go back to my hometown with our cameras to document what life is like there for LGBT people, and to show hopeful and inspiring stories about the growing movement for equality.

The film was produced in partnership with Penn State Public Broadcasting, received support from the Sundance Institute, premiered at the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival, and has been broadcast on PBS stations around the country. We're now using it as an educational tool in a grassroots campaign to help raise LGBT visibility and to bring people together in small towns like Oil City and Coudersport to begin building bridges across the gaps that have divided families, friends, and entire communities on these issues for far too long.

As part of this campaign, OUT IN THE SILENCE had screened just a month earlier for a standing-room-only crowd in the Coudersport Public Library despite vehement opposition from Dr. Wagner and the efforts of the local Tea Party and a small group of fundamentalist preachers to shut the event down and have the library 'de-funded' for making its space available for such a program.

Wagner's “Bible Believing Response,” he told the crowd of approximately 60 local church people, “was intended to expose the filmmakers’ real agenda and to question the directors’ assertion that the community should tolerate alternative lifestyles.”

During the two hour program, Wagner asked special guest Gramley a few questions about her experiences as a minor subject of the film, but he used her more as a prop, seated silently behind him, providing an odd sort of legitimacy as he put forth offensive theories and mischaracterizations about LGBT people, including that “AIDS is the gay plague” and “gays can't have families.”

Dean and I were in the library for the presentation. We made the six-hour drive to Coudersport from our home in Washington, DC because I wanted to bear witness to this event, to experience for myself, if only for a few hours, what it feels like to be so close to such willful ignorance and brazen cruelty.

As I sat there, listening to 'amens,' snickering laughter, and even a roar of approval from the people around me when asked if they agree with the AFA assertions that there “should be legal sanctions against homosexual behavior” and “homosexuals should be disqualified from public office,” I felt a sadness unlike any I have known before. A sadness for those who fall prey to such bigoted and hostile bombast, who carry the feelings these things stir into their homes and family relationships, and for the communities that suffer the sometimes-violent consequences of such mean-spirited divisiveness.

But as I looked at Gramley, unmoved next to Wagner, condoning the ugliness without a word of protest, I thought of all the courageous people who have attended OUT IN THE SILENCE Campaign events over the past many months in far flung places, including there in Coudersport, who refuse to be silent anymore, who are working for change in their communities against great odds, and I was inspired all over again.

It is in their spirit that we will continue our campaign to speak out in the silence and to help build the movement for fairness and equality in small towns and rural communities across America.

I hope you'll join us! Learn more at


9 Women Complain About Pastor

Sexual abuse allegations .. were made about the late Donald Davis, a former Episcopalian bishop.

By Sheila Boughner for The Derrick (Oil City, PA)

Rowe Rowe Nine women have come forward to say they were sexually abused or sexually harassed by a former bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania.

The Rt. Rev. Sean Rowe, bishop of the Erie-based diocese and former rector of St. John Episcopal Church in Franklin, announced in early July that four women had made credible allegations that as girls they were sexually abused by the late Donald Davis, bishop of the diocese from 1974- 91.

Rowe asked any other women who may be have been abused by Davis to come forward, and quickly heard from five more women.

Rowe said in mid-July that he would provide an update on the situation at the end of the summer, and in a letter to the members of the diocese’s 34 churches released Sunday, Rowe said no additional women have come forward.

Of the five women who did come forward, three said they were sexually abused by Davis when they were girls and two others said they were “harassed and intimidated” by Davis when they were adults, Rowe said.

According to the initial allegations, two of the girls were abused at a diocesan summer camp in the late 1970s or early 1980s, and two were abused repeatedly over a period of years. Rowe said in an interview that the girls were about 10 at the time of the alleged incidents.

“I have had conversations with all five of the women who contacted me since my invitation in early July, and they have told me their only interest in coming forward has been in helping me arrive at a fuller picture of the scope of Bishop Davis’s abuse,” Rowe said in his letter Sunday.

He said he has also been in contact with the bishops of other dioceses where Davis served as a priest or lived in retirement and will speak further with those bishops at this week’s House of Bishops meeting in Phoenix, Ariz.

Rowe urged any others who may have been victimized by Davis to come forward.

Rowe wrote that while he cannot undo the past, he can do his best “to ensure that this diocese continues to tell the truth and seek healing and reconciliation for those who have been harmed.”

“I believe that our diocese now has a particular responsibility to observe the highest possible standards in dealing with the issue of sexual misconduct,” Rowe wrote.

He said the diocese is intensifying the education and training of all clergy, staff and volunteers who work with children and has strengthened its misconduct policy.

“Even as we seek healing for the past, we will also dedicate ourselves to ensuring that the Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania is a place where children are respected and nurtured, where people can come with their deepest wounds and vulnerabilities and be safe, and where we show the power of God’s love to all among whom we live and serve,” Rowe wrote.

When he first announced the abuse claims in July, Rowe indicated that while church officials were aware of the allegations against Davis as early as 1993 and removed Davis as bishop in 1994, the matter was never made public, possibly because several of the women specifically asked that their situations not be revealed.

Rowe, however, decided to take the matter public.

“Christians tell the truth,” he said in an interview. “That’s what we need to be doing. Repentance means that when you are in the wrong, you have to make amends and be willing to change. And we can t do that unless we name what we have done.”

Davis, who died in 2007 at the age of 78, was born in New Castle, but was raised in Frederick, Md., before returning to northwestern Pennsylvania to attend Westminster College.

He graduated from Westminster in 1949 and from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1952. He was ordained in 1955 and later received a master’s degree from Bowling Green University and an honorary doctorate from Westminster.

He served in several dioceses in Washington, Indianapolis and Ohio before he was elected the sixth bishop of the Northwest Pennsylvania diocese.

The diocese covers 13 counties in northwest Pennsylvania and includes St. John Episcopal Church in Franklin, Christ Church in Oil City, Christ Church in Meadville, St. James Church in Titusville, Church of the Epiphany in Grove City and Memorial Church of Our Father in Foxburg.

Rowe, who at 35 is the youngest bishop in the Episcopal Church, was rector at St. John’s in Franklin for seven years prior to becoming bishop of the diocese in 2007. He also served on the Franklin School Board.