There seems to be an endlessly recursive game of fact-checking going on. Wednesday in The Glean we wrote about WCCO’s Pat Kessler fact-checking of the pro-Tom Emmer/anti-gay marriage ad run by the National Organization for Marriage and the Minnesota Family Council. Kessler took issue with the ad. Now, as described by Andy Birkey of Minnesota Independent, the Minnesota Family Council has taken issue with Kessler, calling his fact-checking “misleading,” although, if they really wanted to make their point, they should have written it in all-caps, as Kessler does.
Its issue? Well, Kessler opined that promoting Emmer as being anti-gay marriage was beside the point of the ad. “In fact, the governor plays a huge ‘role’ as he/she has the power to veto any bill that would legalize same-sex marriage — and there are five bills to legalize same-sex marriage waiting to be passed in the 2011 session,” the group responds. And then Birkey goes ahead and fact-checks that. Kessler’s point, he reminds us, is that the ad was discussing a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, which would, in fact, make the governor’s position irrelevant. We at The Glean are going to go ahead and fact-check Birkey … hmmm … Here’s the original ad. Yes. That checks out. Here’s Kessler’s Reality Check. Yes, we find Birkey’s point to be SUBSTANTIALLY CORRECT. We look forward to the comments on this Glean, which will no doubt fact-check us; it’s fact-checking all the way down.
On a not-unrelated subject: There’s been a story in the news lately, and this writer hasn’t covered it, because he wanted a chance to address it in a really comprehensive way; this task is considerably eased by Andy Birkey of Minnesota Independent’s superlative work on the subject. So let’s start out with several national tragedies and then focus in on the local angle, although these stories are immensely distressing. In this past week, a 13-year-old in Texas shot himself to death after he was repeatedly bullied in school. He had come out to his parents as gay this past summer. After what is described as “relentless bullying,” a 12-year-old boy in California hanged himself from a tree outside his school. He was taken off life support this week. Earlier this month, a 15-year-old boy in Indiana hanged himself after having been the victim of anti-gay bullying in school. And last Wednesday, a Rutgers University student leaped to his death from the George Washington Bridge after dorm-mates surreptitiously recorded and broadcast video of the young man’s sexual encounter with another young man.
Minnesota has had its share of these sorts of stories. In the Anoka-Hennepin school system, there have been seven suicides in the past year, and according to Nancy Ngo of the Pioneer Press, four of them “reportedly suffered discrimination because they were gay or thought to be gay.” Ngo’s story starts with a young man named Justin Aaberg, who stabbed himself in the stomach with a knife last January; at the hospital, he explained to his parents that he had recently been outed by somebody at school. This past June, Justin took his own life. According to his mother, he had been harassed at school, and school officials had done nothing.
According to Ngo, the district has a policy that “staff must remain neutral on issues of sexual orientation,” although a representative for the district makes the case that this neutrality gives them leeway to intervene when they see bullying going on. But there have been calls to do more, including one from Sen. Al Franken, who issued the following statement at a press conference organized by a group called the Gay Equity Team: “In what should be an unthinkable scenario, some of these children and young people end their own life,” Franken said. “Anoka-Hennepin has witnessed too many tragedies this year. We need to do more to protect our children from bullying. It’s time we extend civil rights to LGBT students.” Andy Birkey of Minnesota Independent discusses the press conference and points out that while the school district has a specific policy against bullying, the language of that policy excludes sexual orientation.
The Gay Equity Team made an extensive case that the district’s policies were directly responsible for a climate of hostility toward LGBT students, and gave teachers tacit permission to look the other way when bullying occurred. It’s an involved case, which Birkey sums up well, so we shan’t detail it here. We will, instead, point you to another article by Birkey that points out that there are other factors at play here. In August, Birkey looked into group calling itself The Parents Action League, a shadowy group who rebuffed Birkey’s attempt to suss out their membership. The group identifies itself as “citizens in the Anoka Hennepin School District.” This group is agitating against any change in the district’s policies, petitioning the following: “Whereas homosexual behavior exposes participants to many life-threatening health risks; and whereas the classroom environment needs to be solely focused on academics; Therefore, we the undersigned citizens of Anoka-Hennepin School District No. 11 do whole heartedly support and desire that the School Board adhere to … the AH District 11 Sexual Orientation Curriculum Policy.”
Its website is currently down, although it includes the following terse message: “We have never been inundated with so much hate and disdain for a differing viewpoint than that of the pro-gay movement. Our group has NEVER written anything hateful on our site or to any member of the GET group with whom we strongly disagree. Apparently, tolerance, kindness and decency are only to be extended to the pro-gay viewpoint — talk about your bullying!” It’s impossible to find an older archive of the page’s contents, as, according to the Internet Wayback Machine, the site used a robots.txt script to block the site from being crawled. Birkey does, however, list some of the contents that are now excised: “[I]t advocates for reparative therapy for homosexuals and supported efforts by Exodus International to bring the Day of Truth to schools in the district. The Day of Truth teaches Christian students to be outspoken about homosexuality as a sin.”
The Day of Truth has its own website, which is not down. In its resources section, there is a PDF of facts about homosexuality. It says that “Some believe that it would be okay to allow same-sex ‘marriage,’ and this is based on the belief that homosexual relationships are equal to heterosexual ones. This is not true, and there are moral, social, and medical reasons why homosexual behavior should not be affirmed by the allowance of same-sex marriage.'” The scare quotes around the word “marriage” are theirs, and they go on to argue that gay men are substantially more likely to have hundreds or thousands of sexual partners, contract sexual diseases, abuse their partners, and have psychological problems. “The simple truth is, homosexual relationships are not the same as heterosexual ones, and there is a mountain of evidence pointing to the fact that homosexual behavior is unhealthy,” it concludes.
And that brings us right back to gay marriage. According to Hart Van Denburg of City Pages, there are now two separate projects with the same goal. Specifically, in response to the St. Paul-Minneapolis Archdiocese mailing out hundreds of thousands of DVDs in opposition to gay marriage, these projects are asking recipients to label them “return to sender.”
Finally, according to the Associated Press, St. Cloud will be holding its first gay pride festival this weekend. And in response to an anti-gay attack on campus, the students at Augsburg in Minneapolis held a “Rally 4 Respect.” Students have been wearing different colored shirts all week, as reported by Jenna Ross of the Star Tribune: “Red on Monday, orange on Tuesday, yellow on Wednesday.” The colors of the rainbow.
In arts: The Cool Hunting blog takes a look at the Walker Art Center’s “Adventures in New Puppetry” series, which will include local Open Eye Figure Theatre founder Michael Sommers. The photos for the event look dazzling, and the Improbable Theatre Company will be on the bill — this writer has seen three previous works by that company, and they are well-worth seeing.
In sports: As MinnPost’s Aaron Gleeman frames it, “Most teams have an annual tradition in which they force the rookies on the September roster to dress up in embarrassing outfits, and the Twins are no different.” We would like to make the case that there is a difference. As demonstrated by photos by Pat Neshek, the Twins’ rookies have some awesome costumes.