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Anti-gay advocates launch global ‘pro-family’ group

Protesters escorted out of D.C. press conference

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Scott Lively, anti-gay, gay news, Washington Blade
Scott Lively, anti-gay, gay news, Washington Blade

Anti-gay activist Scott Lively spoke at the Coalition for Family Values press conference at the National Press Club on Feb. 21. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Two anti-gay advocates on Friday announced a new organization designed to combat the global LGBT rights movement.

Scott Lively of Defend the Family International and Peter LaBarbera of Americans for Truth About Homosexuality unveiled the Coalition for Family Values at the National Press Club in downtown Washington. Greg Quinlan and Diane Gramley of the American Family Association of Pennsylvania spoke at the press conference.

Matt Barber of Liberty Council Action, Oklahoma state Rep. Sally Kern and Brian Camenker of MassResistance are among the more than 70 anti-gay activists and religious leaders from the U.S., Canada, Australia, the U.K. and Brazil who have thus far joined the coalition.

“We share a Biblical world view and speak the plain truth of the LGBT agenda and its destructive influence on society,” said Lively. “Our goal is to promote and protect the natural family as the essential foundation of civilization, and family values as the sources and guide to mainstream culture in every society, while advocating reasonable tolerance to those who choose to live discretely outside the mainstream.”

The press conference took place against the backdrop of ongoing outrage over Russia’s LGBT rights record that includes a 2013 law that bans gay propaganda to minors.

Authorities earlier this week twice detained transgender former Italian Parliamentarian Vladimir Luxuria who protested the controversial statute during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Police in St. Petersburg and Moscow on Feb. 7 arrested 14 LGBT rights advocates who marched with a banner in support of the campaign to add sexual orientation to the Olympic charter’s anti-discrimination clause and sang the Russian national anthem near Red Square while holding Russian and rainbow flags.

Lively, who said during the press conference he has been to Russia three times, last August applauded Russian President Vladimir Putin for signing the gay propaganda law.

“On behalf of millions of Americans and Canadians who are concerned about the seemingly unstoppable spread of homosexuality in our countries and internationally, I wish to respectfully express my heartfelt gratitude that your nation has take a firm and unequivocal stand against this scourge by banning homosexualist propaganda in Russia,” wrote Lively in an open letter to Putin.

Lively reiterated his praise of the Russian president during the D.C. press conference.

“We want to praise the Russian Federation for providing much-needed leadership in restoring family values in public policy,” he said, adding he hopes other governments will enact laws similar to the gay propaganda law that Putin signed. “By taking these steps in the face of intense criticism and hostility by some Western governments and NGOs, the Russians have demonstrated the high value that they place on their children and the natural family model of society. We believe that God will bless the Russian people for their faith and courage.”

LaBarbera echoed Lively.

“The United States of America, especially under President Barack Obama has nothing to teach Russia and the world when it comes to homosexuality-based so-called rights and sexual morality,” he said. “Russia has enough problems of its own to be worrying about U.S. liberals who are obsessed with promoting the normalization of homosexuality and gender confusion, even to children.”

Ellen Sturtz and Slava Revin of the Spectrum Human Rights Alliance heckled Lively and LaBarbera for several minutes after they spoke. The LGBT rights advocates prevented Gramley from speaking for several minutes before security personnel escorted them from the room in which the press conference was taking place.

Ellen Sturtz, Coalition for Family Values, National Press Club, Washington Blade, gay news

Ellen Sturtz joined with other activists in interrupting the Coalition for Family Values press conference. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

“When it comes to their children and the efforts by homosexual activists to tell kids that gay is okay, Russia has made the right decision,” said Gramley. “Last year Russia sent a message to the world that their children are important.

Lively: We ‘unequivocally oppose any violence’ against anyone

Reports that emerged on Thursday suggested Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed his country’s so-called Anti-Homosexuality Bill that would impose a life sentence upon anyone found guilty of repeated same-sex sexual acts.

The Center for Constitutional Rights in March 2012 filed a federal lawsuit against Lively, who is running to succeed outgoing Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, on behalf of a Ugandan LGBT rights group that accuses the evangelical Christian of exploiting anti-gay attitudes in the East African country and encouraging lawmakers to approve the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Judge Michael A. Posner of the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts last August ruled Sexual Minorities Uganda’s lawsuit can move forward.

“I certainly disagree with the controversial legislation that Uganda may enact in the coming days,” U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), who met with Museveni in the East African country on Jan. 23, told the Washington Blade on Thursday. “As I’ve said before, it is my hope that the country will abandon this unjust and harsh legislation.”

Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry, the Human Rights Campaign and other LGBT and human rights groups have also criticized Museveni over the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. They have also spoken out against the draconian bill Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan signed last month that bans nuptials for gays and lesbians, same-sex “amorous relationships” and membership in LGBT advocacy groups.

Lively said in response to the Blade’s question about whether the coalition will contribute to additional anti-LGBT violence in Nigeria, Uganda and other countries that he and other members “unequivocally condemn any violence against anyone, including homosexuals.”

“We do not support the promotion of hatred,” said Lively. “We believe that existing laws in every country are sufficient to protect people from that kind of violence. Anyone who engages in violence against people like that should be prosecuted and punished.”

Lively further described the Center for Constitutional Rights that filed the federal lawsuit against him on behalf of Sexual Minorities Uganda as a “Marxist law firm from New York City.”

“The purpose of the lawsuit is to shut me up because I speak very articulately about the homosexual issue from a pro-family perspective,” said Lively in response to the Blade’s question.

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California mom claims school manipulated child into changing gender identity

Jessica Konen gave the school permission to use the boy’s name for attendance and tried to be supportive but noted it was difficult for her

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Fox News host Laura Ingraham & Center for American Liberty CEO Harmeet Dhillon with client, Jessica Konen (Screenshot Fox News)

A Northern California mother is claiming teachers in a small school district in the state manipulated her daughter into changing her gender identity and name in a legal claim. 

The claim, filed by the ultra-conservative Center for American Liberty on behalf of the mother, alleged “extreme and outrageous conduct” by the Spreckels Union School District, leading Jessica Konen’s 11-year-old daughter to change her gender identity and drive a wedge between them.

Specifically, the claim, a precursor to a lawsuit, names two teachers – Lori Caldera and Kelly Baraki – at Buena Vista Middle who, in addition to teaching, ran the school’s Equality Club, later known as UBU (You Be You). Buena Vista is a part of the district. 

It comes after Abigail Shrier, the author of a book widely criticized as anti-trans, quoted what the two educators said last year at the California Teachers Association’s annual LGBTQ+ Issues Conference in a piece headlined “How Activist Teachers Recruit Kids.” Caldera and Baraki spoke about the difficulty of running a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) in a socially conservative community. 

After the article was published, the teachers were put on administrative leave, and the district hired a law firm to investigate, which is ongoing. The UBU club was suspended. 

Spreckels is a town of about 400 people in the agricultural Salinas Valley, approximately 90 miles south of San Francisco

According to the complaint, Konen’s daughter began attending Equality Club meetings after being invited by a friend when she started sixth grade at Buena Vista. After attending one session, she decided it wasn’t for her until Caldiera convinced her to come back. At the gatherings, Caldera and Baraki held LGBTQ-centered discussions and introduced students to different gender identities and sexualities. 

During her time in the club, Konen’s daughter began exploring her own gender identity and sexuality, choosing to wear more masuline clothes. At some point, she decided to change her name and pronouns, which she has since changed back to her original name and pronouns. 

Konen said she was aware her daughter was bisexual but did not know she began using a male name and gender pronouns until she was called into the school when her daughter was in seventh grade. The meeting caught both Konen and her daughter by surprise – Konen’s daughter had said she wanted to notify her mother, but she did not know the meeting was that day. 

Konen gave the school permission to use the boy’s name for attendance and tried to be supportive but noted it was difficult for her. 

However, when Shrier’s article was published and circulated around the small town, everything changed. At this time, Konen’s daughter was again using a female name and pronouns.

In the leaked recording from the LGBTQ conference, Caldera and Baraki were discussing how they kept meetings private, among other things. 

“When we were doing our virtual learning — we totally stalked what they were doing on Google, when they weren’t doing school work,” Baraki said. “One of them was googling ‘Trans Day of Visibility.’ And we’re like, ‘Check.’ We’re going to invite that kid when we get back on campus.”

However, Caldera told the San Francisco Chronicle that the quotes were either taken out of context or misrepresented. According to Caldera, the stalking comment was a joke. She also defended their work, saying students lead the conversation and they provide honest and fair answers to their questions.
In addition, a spokesperson for the California Teachers Association criticized the group bringing the lawsuit forward, according to the Associated Press: “We are concerned about a political climate right now in which outside political forces fuel chaos and misinformation and seek to divide parents, educators and school communities for their own political gain, which is evident in this complaint. The Center for American Liberty is concerned with pushing its own political agenda through litigation and has filed multiple lawsuits against various school districts and communities.”

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GOP majority city council to repeal LGBTQ+ law in Pennsylvania

“I don’t know of any reasons for repealing it other than a political move […] This issue should not be politicized”

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Chambersburg, Pennsylvania (Photo Credit: Borough of Chambersburg)

The council of this central Pennsylvania borough (town) will meet on Monday, January 24 for a likely vote to repeal an ordinance passed this last October that safeguards residents against discrimination based on their sexual orientation, ethnicity or gender identity.

Opposition to the ordinance is led by newly installed borough council president Allen Coffman, a Republican. In an interview with media outlet Penn Live Saturday, Coffman said, “All of us that ran in this election to be on council we think we got a mandate from the people,” he said. “People we talked to when we were campaigning did not like this ordinance at all. I don’t know what the vote will be, but I have a pretty good idea.”

The political makeup of the council changed with the November municipal election, which ushered in a 7-3 Republican majority.

The ordinance, which extends protections against discrimination to gay, transgender or genderqueer people in employment, housing and public accommodations, was passed in October by the then-Democratic majority council, Penn Live reported.

“I don’t know of any reasons for repealing it other than a political move,” said Alice Elia, a Democrat and the former Chambersburg borough council president. “This issue should not be politicized. It’s an issue of justice and having equal protection for everybody in our community. It shouldn’t be a political or a Democratic or Republican issue. This should be something we are all concerned about.”

Coffman told Penn Live that the ordinance serves no purpose and is redundant. He points out that Pennsylvania’s Human Relations Commission handles discrimination complaints from residents across the state.

“There are no penalties, no fines,” he said. “There’s nothing that the ordinance can make someone do. The most they can hope for is that the committee request the two parties to sit down with a counselor or mediator and talk about it. Quite frankly there is nothing that compels them to. There’s no teeth in this.”

Penn Live’s Ivey DeJesus noted if Chambersburg succeeds in repealing the ordinance, it would mark the first time an LGBTQ inclusive law is revoked in Pennsylvania. To date, 70 municipalities have ratified such ordinances.

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is one of the 27 states in the nation that have no explicit statewide laws protecting people from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing and public accommodations.

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Florida House committee passes “Don’t Say Gay” bill

Equality Florida quickly condemned the measure

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The Florida State Capitol (Washington Blade photo by Yariel Valdés González)

The Republican majority Florida House Education and Employment Committee on Thursday passed House Bill 1557, the Parental Rights in Education bill, colloquially referred to as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill advancing the measure to the full House.

HB 1557 and its companion bill, Senate Bill 1834, would ban classroom discussions about sexual orientation and gender identity in schools, erasing LGBTQ identity, history, and culture — as well as LGBTQ students themselves.

The bill also has provisions that appear to undermine LGBTQ support in schools and include vague parental notification requirements which could effectively “out” LGBTQ-identifying students to their parents without their consent.

“The Trevor Project’s research has found that LGBTQ youth who learned about LGBTQ issues or people in classes at school had 23 percent lower odds of reporting a suicide attempt in the past year. This bill will erase young LGBTQ students across Florida, forcing many back into the closet by policing their identity and silencing important discussions about the issues they face,” said Sam Ames, director of advocacy and government affairs at the Trevor Project. “LGBTQ students deserve their history and experiences to be reflected in their education, just like their peers.”

In an email to the Los Angeles Blade, Brandon J. Wolf, the press secretary for Equality Florida noted; “Governor DeSantis’ march toward his own personal surveillance state continues. Today, the Don’t Say Gay bill, a piece of legislation to erase discussion of LGBTQ people from schools in Florida, passed its first committee and became another component of an agenda designed to police us in our classrooms, doctor’s offices, and workplaces. Make no mistake — LGBTQ people are your neighbors, family members, and friends. We are a normal, healthy part of society and we will not be erased.”

The Trevor Project’s 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health found that more than 42 percent of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, including more than half of transgender and non-binary youth.

According to a recent poll conducted by Morning Consult on behalf of The Trevor Project, 85 percent of transgender and non-binary youth — and two-thirds of all LGBTQ youth (66 percent) — say recent debates about state laws restricting the rights of transgender people have negatively impacted their mental health.

When asked about proposed legislation that would require schools to tell a student’s parent or guardian if they request to use a different name/pronoun or if they identify as LGBTQ at school, 56 percent of transgender and non-binary youth said it made them feel angry, 47 percent felt nervous and/or scared, 45 percent felt stressed, and more than 1 in 3 felt sad.

If you or someone you know needs help or support, the Trevor Project’s trained crisis counselors are available 24/7 at 1-866-488-7386, via chat at TheTrevorProject.org/Get-Help, or by texting START to 678678. 

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