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Nebraska Student Poetry Champ Told He Can't Read Gay and Trans-Themed Poem on Public Television

Michael Barth, a student poet from Gordon-Rushville High School in Nebraska who won the Class C1 poetry division at the Nebraska School Activities Association with a poem that combined lyrics from Macklemore’s "Same Love" and a slam poem called "Swingset" by Andrea Gibson, has been asked to perform a different poem for an NET Television program because the NSAA says it does not want an LGBT agenda promoted, the Lincoln Journal Star reports:

BlanfordgreenThe request from NSAA has caused a firestorm in the high school speech community, which says it amounts to censorship. They have created a Facebook page called “Support Michael and Acceptance of Speech,” made numerous calls to NSAA officials to protest the request and alerted the news media.

NSAA Executive Director Rhonda Blanford-Green (pictured) said she decided to ask Barth to perform a different piece for the NET program because she doesn’t want the program to be seen as promoting an individualized agenda.

The NET show "Best of the Best" features winning performances from the state championship (but apparently not if they mention gay or gender identity themes).

NET Television is Nebraska's PBS and NPR affiliate.

Bridgeport speech coach Glen Lussetto, who describes himself to the paper as "about as conservative as they come in this speech community" said he speech does not contain profanity and promotes acceptance.

"Same Love" is, of course, the hit marriage equality anthem, and, "'Swingset' by Andrea Gibson is about a lesbian kindergarten teacher whose students wonder if she is male or female," according to the Omaha World-Herald.

Blanford-Green added:

“I don’t want the speech platform to be seen as pushing an individualized agenda. If we have the opportunity to promote speech in a positive light that doesn’t create controversy or debate about students, content, the activity of the NSAA – that drove my decision.”

Barth told the HuffPost:

"I was contacted on Sunday that I was selected for the Best of the Best showcase ... and we had to send them a physical copy of my speech. And they read through it and they declined it because the executive director of the NSAA believes that it was advocating transgender rights and that demographic of people. The real controversy is how they're seeing that in the poetry. My poetry program is not advocating gay rights or straight rights or transgender rights or anything like that. It's about love and accepting each other."

Students and supporters of Barth have created a Facebook support page which has 426 members and growing.

Here is Barth's poem.

UPDATE: Barth WILL be able to read his poem.

Via NET's Facebook page:

An NSAA decision to ask a Rushville, Nebraska student to change the poem he read during the state championships for a subsequent NET television broadcast has caused a storm of controversy. Michael Barth won the Class C-1 state award for his presentation of the poem with a gender identity theme. He was scheduled to perform it for the Best of the Best broadcast with other state champions before the NSAA asked him to choose another selection because they considered the original poem too controversial for a statewide audience.

David Feingold, NET's assistant general manager of content, says NET is prepared to broadcast whichever selection Barth chooses to perform during the taping of the program Thursday. 

“Michael Barth is this year’s NSAA Class C1 poetry champion. NET Television is ready to record Michael’s award winning presentation, as originally planned. When Michael comes to the studio tomorrow, we’ll record the performance of his choosing, and will be included in the completed Best of the Best program which will air on NET 1 on Sunday, April 20th, at 9:00 a.m. and rebroadcast on NET 2. The full program will also be available on line,” Feingold said.

NET News will interview NET General Manager Mark Leonard on the controversy at 4:30 pm CT on NET Radio this afternoon.

UPDATE II: Here's an interview with Barth.


Married Same-Sex Couple in Nebraska Seek Divorce, Ask State Supreme Court to Weigh In

A Nebraska lesbian couple seeking a divorce from their marriage (legally performed in Iowa in 2009) have petitioned their case to be heard by the state’s Supreme Court, following a lower court’s ruling that the state cannot recognize the marriage in the first place. The Lincoln Journal Star reports:  

Nebraska flagLancaster County District Judge Stephanie Stacy in August dismissed [Bonnie and Margie Nichols'] divorce case, rejecting arguments that the court could grant the divorce without recognizing the marriage.

“A finding that the marriage is irretrievably broken — by its very nature — cannot be made without recognizing the marriage itself, and it stretches logic and common sense to conclude otherwise,” Stacy wrote in her order.

The case is currently before the state Court of Appeals, but an attorney for the couple has petitioned to get it kicked up to the state Supreme Court.

ACLU of Nebraska and Legal Aid of Nebraska on Thursday chimed in, filing friend of the court briefs in support of the appeal. Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning’s office filed a brief asking that Stacy’s ruling be upheld.

Bruning’s office argued the constitutionality of Nebraska’s same-sex marriage law shouldn’t be considered and said divorce isn’t a right.


Most Nebraska Schools to Begin Offering Insurance Benefits to Married Same-Sex Couples

As a result of the Supreme Court's ruling in June overturning much of the Defense of Marriage Act, nearly all Nebraska school districts will begin offering insurance benefits to legally married same-sex couples. The Columbus Telegram reports:

Nebraska flagBlue Cross Blue Shield recently decided to change its policy effective Jan. 1 because of the high court's ruling, and that company insures all but three of the state's 249 school districts through the Educators Health Alliance.

[…]

It wasn't immediately clear Monday how many of the 70,000 people covered by Blue Cross for the Educators Health Alliance might take advantage of the coverage for same-sex spouses. School district employees will have until Jan. 31 to sign up for benefits.

Nebraska's constitution dictates that only marriages between a man and a woman will be recognized or performed in the state.  


Muslim Nebraska Man Attacks Sister with Crowbar Because She is Gay, Says She Shames Family: VIDEO

3_tuma

Lincoln, Nebraska police have arrested Ahmed Tuma and his friend Nathan Marks after they attacked Tuma's sister and her fiancee as they pulled up to their home, KLKN reports:

Police say 20-yr-old Ahmed Tuma was angry with his sister because she is in a relationship with a woman.  Police say Tuma said it is shameful to their family and against Muslim beliefs.

Police say Tuma's sister and her fiancee arrived at home near 27th & M when  he  and a friend, 20-year-old Nathan Marks ran up to them.  Police say Tuma tried to hit her with a crow bar.  The couple escaped into their car, but police say Tuma repeatedly hit the car with the crowbar.

"They were in fear for their lives, he had made some verbal threats to kill the sister," Officer Katie Flood with the Lincoln Police Dept. said.

Police say the couple drove off, but Marks and Tuma got into Marks' pickup and followed, ramming them from behind nearly into oncoming traffic on S. 27th Street. The couple were able to get away and call police.

SisterTuma was charged with attempted 2nd degree assault, criminal mischief, two counts of terroristic threats and use of a weapon to commit a felony with hate crime enhancements. Marks was charged with aiding and abetting terroristic threats and aiding and abetting use of a weapon to commit a felony. They'll be arraigned next week.

The victim in the attack told 1011Now that she thinks if her brother succeeded in killing her the rest of the family would likely be very proud of him.

Watch 1011Now's report and interview with the sister, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Muslim Nebraska Man Attacks Sister with Crowbar Because She is Gay, Says She Shames Family: VIDEO" »


Cubs Owner and NE Gubernatorial Candidate Pete Ricketts Unhappy the Team is So Pro-Gay

Chcago Cubs owner Pete Ricketts, a Nebraska Republican gubernatorial candidate who is running against Annette Dubas (an outspoken supporter of marriage equality), is under fire from a conservative opponent who is using the Cubs' sponsorship of LGBT pride as a tool to take him down.

RickettsRicketts agrees with conservatives and is trying to disavow himself of the team's position, blaming it on his sister Laura, an out lesbian who is also a Cubs co-owner.

The World-Herald reports:

For Ricketts, the fact that his sister — Laura Ricketts — is a key supporter of gay marriage hasn't changed his belief that marriage is meant for a man and a woman. He not only opposes same-sex marriage, but he said he also opposes a longstanding decision by the Chicago Cubs to sponsor a gay pride parade in Chicago. The Ricketts family owns the baseball team.

The Cubs' connection to the parade raised objections from a fellow Republican candidate, who said Thursday it called into question Ricketts' gay-marriage opposition. Republican Beau McCoy said that Ricketts should be held responsible for the fact that the Cubs are supportive of the gay community.

Ricketts said he had no involvement in that decision. He also said that despite some “difficult conversations” in his family, he and his sister remain family. “My sister is gay. I love her, but I disagree with her on this issue,” said Ricketts, an Omaha businessman.


Nebraska Gubernatorial Candidate Comes Out In Support Of Marriage Equality

Annette

Nebraska State Senator and candidate for Governor Annette Dubas has come out as a proponent of gay marriage, The Lincoln Journal Star reports. The Democratic hopeful from Fullerton, Nebraska shared that it was her brother’s coming out 26 years ago that set her on the path towards embracing marriage equality:

“I came to realize I support marriage equality awhile ago,” Annette Dubas says. “It’s not an abstract idea to me.” [...]

She says she is talking about same-sex marriage because it’s an issue she doesn’t want to skirt.

She says she is talking about same-sex marriage because she wants to elevate the subject, because there is still fear about coming out in small Nebraska towns, because having a gay brother changed her.

She says she is talking about same-sex marriage because she’s proud of that brother.

“If people make questionable remarks about the GLBT community, I let them know they are talking about my brother.”

Dubas’ brother, Martin Steele, who now lives in San Francisco with his partner Kurt Smith, shared his painful coming out story with The Journal Star. For many years, he used alcohol and drugs to cope with the pain of growing up gay in small town Nebraska, eventually coming out to his sister at 23. “She doesn’t know this, but she saved my life,” said Steele. Dubas for her own part was honest about her reaction to her brother’s confession, one that evolved from shock and confusion to acceptance and embrace.

Morean[Dubas] doesn’t believe being gay is a sin, or a choice.

“I didn’t decide growing up I was going to be a heterosexual.”

She believes, for her grandchildren’s generation, same-sex marriage won’t be an issue.

She believes society isn’t there yet. She knows people are still afraid.

And she’s seen how destructive it can be when someone denies a part of themselves. Destructive to them, and to their families.

“I know I represent lots of families across the state who feel like they can't talk about it publicly."

She can be their voice, she says.

Dubas has received 14 endorsements from Democratic lawmakers in the run-up the Democratic primary in May. She will face off against former University of Nebraska Regent Chuck Hassebrook. You can check out her Facebook page HERE.


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