The Meanest Town in America and a Foster Care Bill in Pennsylvania

Quite a disturing tale from Mississippi …. you remember Constance McMillen who just wanted to take her girlfriend to the prom.  Then came outrage, banishment, the ACLU, court cases, media frenzy … and a fake prom.  Yes, the senior class held a “private prom” and sent Constance, her date and five special needs children to an alternative prom. Basically, they pulled a fast one on her. 

What is wrong with people?

Fulton, Mississippi has earned the title of the Meanest Town in America from all sorts of people, including Perez Hilton. From Pam's House Blend

To think that Fulton not only displayed rank homophobia, it raised the bar of evil by sending learning-disabled students to the fake prom, clearly labeling them “others.” I challenge any of these “Christians” in Fulton to cite where in the bible Jesus teaches that the physically or mentally challenged deserve to be outcasts.

This social hellhole isn't even worthy of a boycott, since no gay person or ally would want to drive through this evil place to begin with. For Constance, one can only hope for a scholarship to get the hell out of there to attend college in an environment where she can thrive. Leave the evil behind, gain strength, knowledge and, should you want to challenge the hate, return to reclaim your space with others ready to fight homophobia in the darkest of places.

Fulton, Mississippi has earned its stripes as the cruelest town in America, by treating one of its young residents as a pariah for no good reason that the God they claim to worship can imagine. I do hope there is no adultery or fornication going on in Fulton. The bible had a lot to say about that.

There's a lot of LGBT news circulating, including DOJ action on Don't Ask, Don't Tell, but somehow this latest twist in a story involving a 18 year old lesbian has caught the attention of people everywhere. 

It should. One of the reasons we struggle so hard to win our equal rights — hate crimes protections, anti-discrimination protections, domestic partner benefits, marriage equality  — is to protect our children.  We want queer youth to grow up into a world where they don't worry about their jobs, healthcare and access to swimming pools. We want them to fall in love, get married, have children and grow old together.  We want to protect them, nuture them and benefit ourselves from the amazing new world they create. 

There are the other kids, too.  The ones who went to Bigot Prom 2010.  These kids didn't organize a prom on their own.  They were led there by adults.  I'm betting more than a few of the kids caught up in this bigotry actually grasp the truth behind the situation and I hope they get out of Fulton, Mississippi to see the big world. 

Pam has a poll up to see if Constance herself should stay in Fulton.  Her “peers” have started an anti-Constance Facebook page.

Sigh.  This is one of the reasons I believe LGBT parents in Pittsburgh need to get more involved in advocacy and political.  These children matter to all of us, but that's a particular interest group who need to be drawn more actively into advocacy. 

On a related note, PA Representative Phyllis Mundy has introduced legislation to protect children in foster care.  The bill has been introduced.  Again.  This time, it does not include sexual orientation as a reason to protect children.

Mundy has introduced legislation in previous sessions in response to testimony she heard from former foster children eight years ago as a member of the Joint State Government Commission's Task Force on Services to Children and Youth. In its report, “Children and Youth Services Delivery System in Pennsylvania,” the task force made recommendations to the General Assembly for preventing the abuse and neglect of the state's foster children.

“It is critical that we establish this act to assure that clear and concise information is made available on the basic protections for children in foster care in Pennsylvania,” said Joan L. Benso, president and CEO of Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children. “The lives of 31,000 vulnerable children will be positively impacted by this legislation and we support it wholeheartedly.”

Mundy noted that the bill is not a reflection on the many wonderful foster families who provide loving care and support to vulnerable, at risk-children. Rather, she remarked that it is an acknowledgment that more can be done to prevent abuses that do occur despite the best intentions.

All good stuff.  I worked in the foster care system for three years and there are clearly reasons to take this step.  But other news is more disturbing.

But this time, she’s made some adjustments that may make the bill more popular, by omitting a section that would have protected children against discrimination based on sexual orientation. Because many children are in foster care because of their sexual orientation, she says the clause would be relevant in the bill of rights. However, since she’s had trouble passing it with that inclusion, she says she’d “rather pass an imperfect bill than no bill at all.”

I wrote about this before. Constance isn't in foster care and her family is standing behind her.  Who is standing behind the LGBT children in foster care?  The faith based foster care agencies like Catholic Charities which closed up shop rather than acknowledge gay marriages?  Imagine how they treat LGBT kids in their care. Maybe that's not the best example. 

Parents, I urge you to get involved.  Contact Steel-City Stonewall Democrats or follow them on Twitter @stonewallpgh   There's also PFLAG, GLSEN and the GLCC. 

According to my contacts at the ACLU, the prom situation has happened in Pittsburgh.  It has always been resolved with a letter from the ACLU, at least when someone called the ACLU. 

Think of all the kids who would love to take their same sex dates to their proms. Think of how many aren't able to turn to their parents for support (or their foster parents).  Or their grandmas or their friends. 

You can support these kids (and Constance) by following the links.  Sign the petitions.  Etc.

The PA House Bill has 42 co-sponsors including Dan Frankel and Chelsa Wagner. In 2008, the earlier version has 24 sponsors. 

Maybe a weaker bill is better than nothing, but the bill won't be strengthened if the LGBT community and our allies fail to speak out to protect children here in PA. 

Let Representative Mundy know you support including sexual orientation in the legislation. 

The other sponsors include:  MUNDY, EACHUS, TRUE, BELFANTI, BRADFORD, BRIGGS, CALTAGIRONE, CARROLL, CURRY, CUTLER, DALEY, DePASQUALE, DeWEESE, FRANKEL, HARKINS, HICKERNELL, HOUGHTON, JOHNSON, JOSEPHS, KULA, MAHONEY, MANN, McILVAINE SMITH, MURPHY, MURT, PALLONE, PARKER, PASHINSKI, PAYTON, PETRI, PRESTON, SAMUELSON, SANTONI, SHAPIRO, SIPTROTH, K. SMITH, STABACK, STURLA, WAGNER, WILLIAMS, YOUNGBLOOD, and GINGRICH

If your rep is on this list, please drop them a line thanking them and explaining why it is important to reintroduce sexual orientation into the legislation. You can find your legislator here and get the contact information.

This is a good example of seizing a moment to educate and bond.  Those relationships can lead to further dialogue on other issues. 

There are kids who need you.

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