Dear Ms. Gallagher:
In your October 20th New York Post column attempting to take me to task for pointing out the damage done by anti-gay discrimination and the destructive message it sends to gay youth, you wrote, “These kids need help, real help. They should not become a mere rhetorical strategy, a plaything in our adult battles.”
Yet in that very column and, of course, in your continued use of anti-gay prejudice and rhetoric to advance your political agenda, you use young people in just that way.
In state after state, week after week, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) young people hear anti-gay organizations like your “National Organization for Marriage” (NOM) characterizing gay people as “depraved” and “immoral” and denigrating gay youth for embracing an “unhealthy sexual identity and lifestyle.” You have opposed non-discrimination laws and even legal support for LGBT youth, exclaiming that being gay is a “dysfunction” that people should work to “overcome.”
Even as you note many of the harms endured by LGBT youth, you continue to campaign relentlessly for the legal discrimination that reinforces their inequality and sense of isolation and that licenses other people to look down on these young people and their dreams of full and equal participation in our society, including a lifetime commitment to the person they love.
Tragedies like the suicides we have seen in just the past few weeks — the loss of youths like 13 year old Asher Brown, 18 year old Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi, 19 year old college student Raymond Chase, 19 year old college student Corey Jackson, 13 year old Billy Lucas, and 13 year old Seth Walsh — are directly rooted in the toxic rhetoric and legal discrimination you promote.
And while you continue even in your latest column to dance around the facts, ignoring child-welfare experts such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and every other leading professional authority in the country, here is what we really know:
- Most LGBT youth do overcome – not their true selves – but the hardships you and other anti-gay forces foster, and grow up to be healthy adults who lead productive lives, create loving families, and contribute to their local communities;
- Still, according to the 2009 National School Climate Survey nearly 9 of 10 LGBT students experience physical or verbal harassment, bullied by those who’ve been told by groups like yours that it’s okay to feel disdain toward those who are different;
- Political campaigns to exclude committed same-sex couples from marriage spark psychological distress, feelings of alienation, and fear of violence among gay youth and adults, as officially documented by the American Psychological Association’s Journal of Counseling Psychology.
You see, state-sponsored discrimination of the kind you and NOM promote denies protection to those who most need it and gives permission to those who fear, despise, or hate. Exclusion from marriage puts the weight of our government on the side of those who foster prejudice against gay people; it says that in the eyes of the law, gay relationships — and therefore gay people — are less worthy and deserve fewer protections and less respect. It betrays our Constitution and violates the Golden Rule of treating others as you’d want to be treated — or want your children to be treated.
Fortunately, Americans of different faiths, different backgrounds, and different parties are coming to understand the costs of discrimination and prejudice, the injury inflicted by groups like yours. That’s why a majority of Americans now support the freedom to marry, despite the money you’ve shoveled into attacks such as California’s Prop 8 and the partisan, anti-gay campaigning you’re doing across the country as I write.
Rather than repeating anti-gay attacks in the guise of concern, the best way for you to combat hopelessness and hostility, violence and suicide, would be to repudiate NOM’s destructive messages and eliminate the legal burdens that incite such pain and suffering.
Why don’t you take the money NOM is funneling into attack campaigns and start addressing the real needs of all children, gay and straight. Get out of the discrimination business and stand with Freedom to Marry and all of us who support equal protection and respect, for all.
How about it, Maggie?
Executive Director, Freedom to Marry