A member of the Pinellas County [Fla.] Juvenile Welfare Board has provoked the anger of national gay and lesbian advocacy groups for saying the groups endorse sex between underage youth and adults.
Cecilia Burke, who was appointed to the children's advocacy board of directors by Gov. Jeb Bush, made her statements in a memo February 7 asking the board to sever ties with the support groups Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays and the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network.
In a letter Friday, PFLAG alleged that Burke wrote "false" and "defamatory" comments about its organization and wants a public apology, said Ron Schlittler, the group's interim executive director. GLSEN and the National Center of Lesbian Rights cosigned the letter. "Quite frankly, we are pleased to have this opportunity to clear our names," Schlittler said. "This is a national organization. Just as much as these comments were an attack on a local chapter, it is on our national reputation."
Burke's memo also said the groups support "unhealthy sexual practices among youth." She cited maintaining relationships with these groups as a reason to attempt to deny the Juvenile Welfare Board's director, Jim Mills, a raise. The attempt eventually failed.
Burke said contention within the board over how the taxpayer-funded agency should deal with sexual orientation issues started about two years ago, when one of its committees mailed bookmarks to high school principals that listed PFLAG and GLSEN as resources for gay students.
A neighbor complained to Burke that she didn't want her tax money spent on groups opposed to the view that gays can change their sexual orientation, Burke said. The Juvenile Welfare Board, which funds programs to help children, will receive about $42 million in property taxes this year.
PFLAG and GLSEN say they provide support and counseling for those needing assistance in coming to terms with sexual orientation issues. For them, a relationship with the Juvenile Welfare Board--a youth referral service--seems natural. Mills said he plans to continue the board's relationship with the groups.
"I've worked with these organizations for years," Mills said. "I've never had any reason to believe they endorse pedophilia. I'm not sure where that came from." (AP)