By: Joe Siegel/TRT ReporterRhode Island State Rep. Dan Gordon (R-Portsmouth-Tiverton) recently made derogatory comments about a Gay-Straight Alliance at Tiverton High School.
“I don’t think we should be promoting anything whatsoever that has to do with sexuality….Especially in a school that receives public funding,” Gordon wrote on a local blog. “I don’t think there would be much of a problem with bullying if students weren’t flaunting their sexuality in school.”
Gordon also threatened to cut off the school’s funding if they allowed the GSA to meet on the premises.
“And this is why if I have anything to say about it, Tiverton will lose school funding to local charter schools,” Gordon said. “It doesn’t matter if gay or straight, if sexual meet-up groups are being promoted in our schools rather than improving test scores, that school is failing. Is it really more important for our children to get ‘sexed-up’, than learning advanced math?”
According to radio station WRNI, Gordon had “also characterized the group as a ‘sexual meet-up group’ and a place where students ‘get sexed-up.’”
Peter Forrest, the faculty advisor to the Tiverton High School GSA, told The Rainbow Times he was “disturbed” by Gordon’s comments.
“It was the assumption that he made about the group, about why these students chose to get together,” Forrest said, noting Gordon’s belief that the school’s GSA was a “sex group” was “insulting to the students.”
The students who created the GSA were “angry” and “confused” about Gordon’s comments, as well, Forrest explained.
“(Gordon) said he would like to meet with (the GSA) because he’s had conversations through the blog with the students,” Forrest said. “He has had numerous opportunities to apologize for what he said. He’s never done that. He doesn’t seem to understand what the impact of his words were.”
Karen Izzo, the mother of a gay son and the advisor to a GSA in Saunderstown, drafted a petition in response.
The petition says: “Comments like those made by Mr. Gordon are the reason our gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender teens suffer bullying and mis-treatment in schools. Comments like these show a complete lack of understanding regarding romantic orientation. Comments like these slander and wholly mis-characterize the important social justice role that Gay/Straight Alliances fill in high schools and middle schools across our nation. Finally, comments like these demonstrate an alarming ignorance of constitutional law from an individual who swore to uphold the rights of all his constituents.”
Izzo wants Gordon to issue an apology to GSAs across the state “for his derogatory and inaccurate comments regarding the nature of GSA meetings,” and requests that Gordon visit GSA meetings and attend a diversity seminar.
Throughout the controversy, Gordon has repeatedly claimed he is not homophobic.
“I did fail in regards to this thing and perhaps not communicating fully,” Gordon told The Rainbow Times on Friday. “It seems as though my comments have been latched on as being anti-gay, which is the furthest thing from the truth.”