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Bullied by a bully


February 21, 2012
Carrie Olson , The Daily Freeman Journal

Did Governor Terry Branstad "quietly endorse" the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning) youth of Iowa last week? The answer: No. Am I concerned with his views on homosexual lifestyles? Not really - instead, I am more concerned with his ability to stand on his own two feet and not "cave" to the pressures of agenda-laden groups.

On Valentine's Day, Bob Vander Plaats, organizer of The Family Leader, sent an open letter to the governor over his approval of letting the 7th Annual Governor's Conference on LGBTQ Youth use the word "Governor" in its name. He was deeply concerned over the governor's support for the event, and stated in a press release on The Family Leader's website: "Governor Branstad needs to be held accountable for his support of this conference and the promotion of a very radical and dangerous left-wing agenda."

Did Branstad submit to the liberals and essentially embrace alternative lifestyles? Again, no. He told reporters in January that he "believes everyone should be treated with dignity and respect and that people need to help assure that nobody is bullied."

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The governor, the pot stirrer he is, seemed to infuriate Vander Plaats with this statement.

In the press release referred to above, it also stated: "The Family Leader does not support LGBTQ behavior and believes that a conference of this nature approves, promotes, and accelerates this behavior among students. According to the Center for Disease Control, 'men who have sex with men and persons exposed through high-risk heterosexual contact account for 82 percent of all HIV/AIDS cases diagnosed in 2006.' Therefore, The Family Leader concludes that this conference is encouraging dangerous and unhealthy behavior while claiming to 'provide a safe and supportive place in which to learn' as stated on their website."

I'm no lawyer, but I did take logic in college. And during the portions I managed to stay awake, I know that the statement above is a fallacy. I can deduct from this hasty generalization that those students that attend the conference have a fairly good chance of contracting HIV/AIDS in their lifetime - a poorly thought-out argument, in my humble opinion.

In the open letter to Branstad, Vander Plaats proposed holding a more "comprehensive" conference. One that "would address the harassment that takes place against minority kids, overweight kids, skinny kids, poor kids, disabled kids, red headed kids, kids confused about their sexuality - ALL kids!"

I applaud this idea - a conference that would encompass bullying overall. (Although, I would include kids who are not confused about their sexuality. I am quite sure that there are straight and gay kids who aren't confused about the subject.) But Vander Plaats went a step further and said that his group would like to develop a different safe-schools conference for all of these students. Um, I have a huge problem here.

In an effort to wipe out the "far-left agenda" of the conference - he has decided that inserting his own conservative agenda into such an event would make it okay. Sorry, it doesn't.

I can respect that he has differing viewpoints, but I firmly believe he must respect those with opposing viewpoints as well.

The March 8 event addresses the bullying that LGBTQ students may experience on a daily basis. Their Facebook page says: "For many LGBTQ youth, school can be a terrifying place due to bullying, harassment, and discrimination." It would make sense, in my mind, why students from all over the state would want to converge in a safe place to discuss their thoughts and ideas - away from the classroom. And while I would fully support a conference that focuses on bullying overall, I have no problem with LGBTQ youth holding their own event. There have been so many news stories recently of teenagers who have committed suicide because of the constant taunting from others due to their lifestyle. It's an issue that is real and needs addressed.

In The Family Leader's letter to the governor, it said that the organization's goal was "to speak the truth in love." It went on to commit another obvious fallacy: "Ironically, the upcoming 7th Annual Iowa Governor's Conference on LGBTQ Youth is exchanging truth for acceptance and tolerance of harmful behavior. As parents, we love our children so much that we do not accept or tolerate their desire to play dodge ball in a busy street. If we did, that tolerance and acceptance could result in serious injury or worse."

Tolerance and acceptance of a lifestyle is not the same as letting your child play a sport on a busy street. It just isn't.

I don't feel that the statements of The Family Leader over the youth conference speaks "the truth in love." Instead, I feel it is a way to keep the attention-seeking organization relevant - by trying to bully the governor in getting their way.

Bullying of any kind is unacceptable. Everyone should be free from bullying, people should not live in fear. Any conference that works to reduce bullying should be supported.

Terry Branstad stands as the voice of reason in the face of Bob Vander Plaats' ultra-conservative crusade against the LGBTQ community. The people of Iowa have spoken by electing Branstad as their governor and not Bob Vander Plaats.



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