I live in the suburbs of Chicago where we don’t always hear the anti-gay rhetoric a lot of you hear in other parts of the country (we’re at least somewhat close to approving same-sex marriage in the state). Maybe that’s why Patrick Guinane‘s reporting in my local paper stood out to me.
It involved the approval of a Gay/Straight Alliance group at Lockport Township High School. The club had been on probation for two years — as are all new clubs — and it was time for the school board to decide whether or not to make them official.
The good news is that the board voted to approve the club 4-3.
The bad news is what the dissenters said at the meeting:
… board member Samantha Neitzke asked: “When did school and sexual orientation cross over?”
She argued issues of sexuality should remain family concerns.
“My concern was why does this belong in a school?” Neitzke said. “It’d be like if you had an obesity club.”
I guess that’s easy to say when you’ve never been bullied by other students because of your sexual orientation (or weight, for that matter).
Furthermore, educating students about tolerance and giving them a safe place to talk about issues that matter to them — which is the purpose of GSA groups — fits right in with what schools ought to be doing.
Board member Michael Lewandowski, who joined Neitzke in voting against, noted that alliance meetings drew only about 15 attendees. Of the district’s roughly 3,700 students, only 84 signed the petition two years ago to start the club, Neitzke said.
“When you ran for school board, all you needed was 50 signatures, right?” responded board member Lou Ann Johnson.
Board member Charles Travis cast the final vote against the club:
“I’m not against gay people or whatever, but I have to follow my religion,” Travis said.
Paraphrased: “I’m not against gay people, but I have to follow my religion, which is totally against gay people.”
I guess Travis’ religion — anyone want to take a wild guess which one it is? — forbids gay and straight students from socializing.
The good news is that a majority of the board members — as well as the school’s principal and the district’s superintendent — have their heads on straight. They’re doing what’s best for the students instead of what local pastors want.
The other three could learn a lesson from them.
Or get voted out in the next election.