The American Family Association of Michigan (AFAM)
is crowing that two GOP senators have yanked their sponsorship
of anti-bullying legislation, issuing joint press releases with
Sens. Randy Richardville (R-Monroe) and Valde Garcia (R-Howell).
HB 4162 and HB 4091 passed the lower chamber last year (2007)
and have been sitting in the Senate Education Committee ever
since, but a Capitol rally last week brought the bills back to
the forefront. There's also SB 0107 sponsored by Sen. Glenn
Anderson (D-Westland), but proponents say they're focused on the
AFAM blasted a lobby day event put on by the Safe Schools
Coalition on Wednesday pushing "Matt's Safe School Law," named
after Matt Epling, an East Lansing eighth-grader who took his
own life in 2002 after severe hazing incidents. School districts
would have six months to adopt an anti-bullying policy or face
potential future action by the Legislature ("Bullying Bills
Primed For Movement," 3/13/07).
AFAM President Gary Glenn blasts the legislation as promoting
the "homosexual agenda" by including gender identity and
homosexuality as personal characteristics a person could not be
bullied for. But Sean KASOFSKY, policy director for the gay
rights group the Triangle Foundation, said the House bills don't
have a list of protected groups.
In an e-mailed release Wednesday morning, Glenn accused the
Triangle Foundation of instituting a dress code for the lobby
day, which attracted more than 100 people, including Michigan
State Police Director Peter Munoz.
Glenn unleashed response that raised the ire of the Triangle
"In the sad reality of enabling emotional trauma and delusion
that comprises their stock in trade," Glenn said, "it is not a
joking matter to wonder if the Triangle Foundation's wardrobe
instructions will further traumatize or inhibit the emotionally
disturbed men who claim they're really women, who had every
serious intent of wearing a dress to the state Capitol and using
the women's restrooms while they're there. Is the Triangle
Foundation asking 'lobbying day' participants to go back into
the closet for mere political expedience?"
Kasofsky retorted: "There's no dress code for our lobby day.
We've had people with Mohawks and people in jeans and T-shirts.
It's come as you are. … This is the politics of distraction.
That's why they bring up cross-dressing and women's restrooms. …
The AFAM isn't a pro-family organization. They're a hate group."
AFAM issued a press release announcing Garcia had dropped his
support for SB 0107 four hours later on Wednesday. A similar
release with Richardville followed on Friday.
But the senators stress AFAM didn't bully them into retracting
"The AFAM had concerns, but they didn't pressure me to change my
mind," Garcia said. "They're just now getting involved … I
always had concerns."
"That's not the reason I do things," Richardville told MIRS.
Anderson concurred that he didn't believe his colleagues had
caved to AFAM, saying he held them both in "high regard."
Garcia said he became more aware of problems with the bill after
he signed on last year. Furthermore, he points out neither have
technically withdrawn their names because that can't happen
until legislation comes before the Senate.
Anderson said Garcia had told him of his decision. He stressed
they're "still in the process of working out differences."
Kasofsky said it's moot. The focus is on getting the House bills
passed, which have more updated language than Anderson's bill.
He described Garcia's and Richardville's actions as
"disheartening," but felt confident they'd sign on to the final
"Gary Glenn is manufacturing dissent where there's not any," he
Garcia and Richardville said they were concerned about bullying
as a problem, but did not want to protect specific classes of
people based on sex, race, sexual orientation, etc. It's the
same argument used against hate crime legislation — a crime's a
crime, so it's no different to attack someone even if race, for
instance, is a motivating factor.
Richardville notes sexual orientation is included, but factors
like "physical size, what part of the city kids live in and what
their clothes look like" are not. He would like to see a more
general anti-bullying bill.
"Everyone should be protected," Richardville said, "not just
certain classes." Garcia agrees that "inadvertently, you leave
something out, someone out."
Glenn calls the legislation a "Trojan horse."
"(It) would have no real effect on bullying but is being backed
by homosexual activist groups who hope to use legitimate public
concern about student safety as a ruse to establish — for the
first time ever, anywhere in Michigan law — special 'protected
class' status based on homosexual behavior and cross-dressing,"
Richardville said he's not interested in championing anyone's
Anderson said he's received several e-mails from people "who
don't believe some people should be protected. I believe all
children should. (Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender)
students should not be in fear."
He also said AFAM is using the bill as a fundraiser and to
motivate its base. He said it's "fanning bigotry across the
state, anxiety across the state.
"Unfortunately, we're talking about school kids here," Anderson
said. "It's difficult to express how I feel about someone using
that to raise money when not all children are afforded a safe
environment to learn."
Richardville said he doesn't doubt that gay students — and those
perceived as gay — face bullying at school.
"I don't espouse that lifestyle, but there are students figuring
those things out. I just don't think we should spell things out
(in legislation)," Richardville said. "That's not my agenda
He condemns "radical" groups that use hate speech, like the
Kansas Westboro Baptist Church's "God hates fags" campaign.
Richardville said he views issues through a Christian lens in
which you "love the sinner, but hate the sin."
Richardville said after talking with Education Chair Wayne
KUIPERS (R-Holland) he believes taking out the specific groups
will make it easier to pass the bill. Anderson said he's willing
to compromise and remains optimistic.
"If you try to get everything, you won't get everything,"
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