The message from Texans was loud and clear in the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund’s statewide survey last spring: 88 percent of likely voters said they support “requiring public schools to protect all children from bullying, harassment, and discrimination in school, including the children of gay and lesbian parents or teenagers who are gay.”
Far-right pressure groups like Focus on the Family, however, seem to believe promoting their anti-gay hate agenda is more important than protecting children — even after the recent suicides of three teenage boys (including one from the Houston area) who had been bullied severely and repeatedly by classmates. Two teens, one 13 and the other 15, hanged themselves. The Houston-area teen, 13, shot himself. But Focus on the Family says laws that seek to protect gay and lesbian students from bullying simply “promote homosexuality to kids.” Focus and other far-right pressure groups have also launched a full-scale media assault on the Safe Schools Improvement Act in Congress.
The Texas Legislature has refused to pass anti-bullying legislation in previous sessions. Last year, Focus on the Family’s Texas affiliate, Liberty Institute, dishonestly attacked an anti-bullying bill (House Bill 1323 by state Rep. Mark Strama, D-Austin) as simply a “transgender special rights” bill. In reality, the bill sought to protect all children from bullying. But because it specifically mentioned sexual orientation, pressure groups like Liberty Institute think such common-sense legislation somehow promotes “special rights” for victims of abuse and harassment.
Here’s the reality: for religious-right groups like Liberty Institute and Focus on the Family, opposition to such legislation is important in their hateful campaign to stigmatize and shame gay and lesbian people, even children. Perhaps their versions of the Bible don’t contain such familiar phrases as “Judge not, that you be not judged” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.”