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Student Defends Kevin Jennings as Right-Wing Attacks Continue

Anti-gay right-wing conservatives continue their assault on U.S. Department of Education's director of the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools Kevin Jennings. Media Matters summarized the attacks at the end of last week: "The attacks on Jennings, the latest Obama administration official in the right's crosshairs, have been disgusting, misleading, baseless, and at times pointedly anti-gay."

Jennings In their latest ridiculous tactic, WingNutDaily has targeted Jennings for some complimentary remarks he once made about early gay rights activist Harry Hay, who started the Mattachine Society, one of the nation's earliest gay rights organizations. Hay also apparently advocated for NAMBLA, and you can see where that's going — straight to Sean Hannity's ears and out his mouth, most likely.

Meanwhile student at the center of the Jennings controversy, a proven 16-year-old at the time, released a statement to Media Matters:

Since I was of legal consent at the time, the fifteen-minute conversation I had with Mr. Jennings twenty-one years ago is of nobody's concern but his and mine. However, since the Republican noise machine is so concerned about my "well-being" and that of America's students, they'll be relieved to know that I was not "inducted" into homosexuality, assaulted, raped, or sold into sexual slavery.

In 1988, I had taken a bus home for the weekend, and on the return trip met someone who was also gay. The next day, I had a conversation with Mr. Jennings about it. I had no sexual contact with anybody at the time, though I was entirely legally free to do so. I was a sixteen year-old going through something most of us have experienced: adolescence. I find it regrettable that the people who have the compassion and integrity to protect our nation's students are themselves in need of protection from homophobic smear attacks. Were it not for Mr. Jennings' courage and concern for my well-being at that time in my life, I doubt I'd be the proud gay man that I am today.

- Brewster

Media Matters also published a shot of the student's drivers license.

King And homophobic Rep. Steve King (R-IA), who has been working hard to overturn Iowa's marriage equality laws, is the first member of Congress to call on Obama to oust Jennings

"Although Rep. King says he is opposed to the bullying of anyone in schools, he also opposes conferring 'special protected status' on any particular group. (Jennings and the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network strongly support a federal anti-bullying bill, H.R. 2262, currently under consideration in the House, that specifically includes sexual orientation and 'gender identity.') As for Jennings' other work, King calls it 'a political movement. It's not about protecting kids, it's about promoting homosexuality and demanding public affirmation.' King says he plans to write a letter to President Obama about the Jennings matter, and he also expects other members of Congress to join him in calling for Jennings' removal."

As I said previously, the homophobic right-wing loons who are pushing this controversy don't want to see any gay man in this position, much less one who has spent the better part of 20 years dedicating himself to wiping out anti-LGBT bullying and promoting tolerance in the nation's schools.

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Comments

  1. For some reason, I still find it amazing how Americans will elect people to Congress who are obviously mentally ill. Then again, for 8 years we had this thing called Santorum representing Pennsylvania in the US Senate. We Pennsylvanians finally got enough Charmin to wipe him away--maybe the people of Iowa will do the same...use Scotts if Charmin is too pretentious for wholesome Iowa folk.

    I'm glad that the gay guy is speaking out about the incident that happpened 21 years ago, and how Mr Jennings advice was so helpful to him. They are both examples of gay courage.

    Posted by: Derrick from Philly | Oct 5, 2009 10:12:43 AM


  2. Kevin Jennings is a heroic American.

    Iowa Rep. Steve King and Sean Hannity are immoral, ignorant, useless pieces of shit. Period.

    Posted by: hephaestion | Oct 5, 2009 10:19:12 AM


  3. The attacks on Jennings were sometimes anti-gay? I'm shocked! -- shocked! I thought they were just concern about the welfare of the poor child who was sexualized so early (at 16) and Jennings condoned it, that they would have said exactly the same if it was a straight girl, and we're just applying a double standard -- special rights for gay kids. I expect a full retraction and apology from Hannity and Beck, because surely they're not anti-gay.

    Posted by: Kevinvt | Oct 5, 2009 10:21:47 AM


  4. And that idiot King obviously doesn't realize that including sexual orientation and gender identity doesn't protect any one group more than another.

    Kids who are bullied because they're straight or girls who are bullied because they're too feminine will be covered as well.
    The poor football player who's picked on because he's so macho!

    Of course we all know how many of those incidents there will be, but they are covered under the law. Nobody gets special rights.

    Posted by: Kevinvt | Oct 5, 2009 10:50:45 AM


  5. And that idiot King obviously doesn't realize that including sexual orientation and gender identity doesn't protect any one group more than another.

    Kids who are bullied because they're straight or girls who are bullied because they're too feminine will be covered as well.
    The poor football player who's picked on because he's so macho!

    Of course we all know how many of those incidents there will be, but they are covered under the law. Nobody gets special rights.

    Posted by: Kevinvt | Oct 5, 2009 10:50:46 AM


  6. The classic right wing smear logic continues! Because Jennings once said something admiring about Harry Hay he now supports NAMBLA. (Since I also admire Hay I guess I want to have sex with little boys, too.) I guess anyone who admires Thomas Jefferson wants to own slaves. Yet some people will buy this nonsense.

    Then there are people like King who consistently demonize homosexuality and want it to be invisible in the schools. In essence, they want to keep gay kids alone and ashamed. So which kids are more apt to turn to adults for sex? Happy, open ones with plenty of gay peers to befriend and date, or ashamed, lonely ones who are told their sexuality is a sin? Hmmm . . .

    Kudos to Brewster for speaking out and speaking the truth. If they cave on Jennings, who will the next target be? McCarthyism lives on.

    Posted by: Ernie | Oct 5, 2009 11:08:27 AM


  7. The conservatives attacking Jenning's don't care about a little thing called "the facts" they simply care about their agenda to discredit Obama and remove Jenning's in the most embarrassing way possible. You will not hear about how this guy was of legal age, or how actually TALKING to a youth with questions about sexual identity is IMPORTANT to the well-being of the youth. You will hear about how it was Jenning's responsibility to report that kid so that his parents and/or other conservative authority figures could beat into his head that homosexuality was wrong.

    Like many, many, many kids I understand the importance of having someone to talk to because when I was 17 years old - I was suicidally depressed over this very issue and came VERY close to choosing that. If it wasn't for ONE very courageous STRAIGHT social studies teacher who took the time to find out why an "A" student had stopped going to school in his senior year, I would be dead. To this day, I don't know if he knew that I was gay, but he knew that I was *DIFFERENT* and emphasized accepting myself as I was. I don't know if Jennings saved this kids life by his talk like my teacher did, but I do know that its because of teacher's like him that many of us are here to defend him.

    Posted by: Jim in MN | Oct 5, 2009 11:27:59 AM


  8. @ JIM IN MN: Please consider writing an open letter to King (cc'ing Iowa papers) with your story. I'm very glad to hear you came out the other side of that loneliness and isolation.

    Posted by: David R. | Oct 5, 2009 3:18:20 PM


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