The Lord has truly blessed the Rev. Walter Ray, Jr., of Portland. As minister of the Webb’s Mills church in Casco since 1987, he has never met a gay or lesbian person that has experienced discrimination.
He shared this revelation with the Portland Press Herald in response to the release of the Center for the Prevention of Hate Violence’s recently study, “Discrimination Against Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Individuals in Maine.”
Beginning in June, the CPHV began a statewide study of the extent and impact of discrimination against Maine people based on their sexual orientation. They conducted 85 interviews and 48 victims of discrimination told their tales. They are wide-ranging and, at times, horrific.
These interviewees varied in gender, age, income and geography. (They ranged from 16 to 68 years of age, with the average age being 30.)
Twenty-seven were female and 21 were male. They identified themselves as a member of one of four categories: 18 gay, 17 lesbian, nine transgender and four bisexual.
The results, according CPHV Executive Director Stephen Wessler, are “Deeply disturbing and sobering… This discrimination has come at a huge cost for its victims and, indeed, for the state of Maine itself.”
The 63 incidents of discrimination described in this report break down as follows: Employment, 31 incidents (49 percent of the total in the report); Public Accommodations, 15 incidents (24 percent); Education, 15 incidents (24 percent); Housing, one incident (1.5 percent); and Credit, also one incident (1.5 percent).
Wessler says the approach to the study was similar to those used for their previous reports on such issues as violence against the homeless and discrimination against Maine’s Muslim community.
As might be expected, leaders of the Religious Right attacked the timing, motives and validity of the report.
In their response posted on the Christian Coalition’s online newspaper, The Record, (which, by the way, ends most of their columns with a MasterCard/Visa Logo) they write: “The report is flawed because it violates a fundamental rule used to judge the reliability of a study of the sort on which the report is based. An organization conducting a study must not have a vested interest in the outcome of the study.
“It is an unfortunate fact of life that an organization dedicated to rooting out cases of discrimination must first dig them up,” the posting continued. “The current study is of no more value to an understanding of the prevalence of anti-gay discrimination in Maine, than a study conducted by a barber, which concludes that 85% of the people in the state of Maine need a haircut.”
Then there’s Pastor Bill’s take on things. Pastor Bill – a.k.a. William E. Cripe, Sr., of Waterville — is a syndicated columnist and talk show host who recently returned to us after a brief respite
“I figure if God needs a break from it all, there’s a good chance I do too,” he explained in reference to his hiatus. “In truth, I guess my soul was empty; my spirit drained, my flesh too pooped to peep.”
Luckily for Maine, His Poopness peeped just in time to weigh in on the upcoming vote.
Cripes gripes to his followers, “I hope you are not being horn-swaggled by the rhetoric and lofty language about equal rights, fairness, and discrimination… No one balks when an alcoholic has his license to drive revoked, or a convicted felon has to wear an ankle bracelet or that a clerk won’t sell a 13 year old a six-pack…
“When you hear the commercials about homosexuals being discriminated against in this state, know that it is flat-out fiction,” Cripes continued. “This bill is not about equal rights as stated. This is merely a door opener to broader affirmations of what has been traditionally and biblically, unhealthy, abnormal, and dangerous conduct.”
The CHPV report comes in the wake of a recent national study by GLSEN (the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network) titled “From Teasing to Torment: School Climate in America, A Survey of Students and Teachers.”
The national survey of over 3,400 students aged 13 to 18, and over 1,000 secondary school teachers, explores students’ and teachers’ experiences with bullying and harassment, and their attitudes about this serious problem in America’s schools.
The survey finds that GLBT students are three times as likely as non-LGBT students to say that they do not feel safe at school (22 percent versus seven percent) and 90 percent of LGBT students (versus 62 percent of non-GLBT teens) have been harassed or assaulted during the past year.
In a case he might call “reverse discrimination,” Christian Civic League of Maine leader Michael Heath recently got an earful from some Maine teens.
Heath spent time one recent morning in Cape Elizabeth with the senior class of the public high school.
“Cape Elizabeth is a picturesque coastal suburb to Portland,” he wrote afterward. “I was asked to play the role of token conservative since Maine Won’t Discriminate was there last week. The faculty, to their credit, worked to make sure that students were exposed to both sides of the Question 1 debate.”
He said the students were attentive, energized and mostly civil, though the majority were visibly against his views, which became very evident during the Q&A.
“All of the questions were clever, and centered on the discrimination argument… Many of the students acted as if I was from the Twilight Zone. Some of the questions caused the theme of that dated television show to replay in my mind as I stood before that group of prosperous and healthy young people. In some ways I feel like I visited the Twilight Zone.”
God bless the child that’s got his own.
A semi-retired arts promoter, Richard Lawlor is co-founder of GFPM (Gay Fun In Portland Maine) Enterprises. His column, Citizen Dick, runs biweekly.