By Trudy Ring
Originally published on Advocate.com April 15 2014 7:57 PM ET
Officials at the University of South Carolina Upstate are still defending the school against criticism from politicians who object to LGBT-themed programs, but other politicos have joined the homophobic chorus.
Last week the Spartanburg-based school canceled a performance of How to Be a Lesbian in 10 Days or Less, a play that was to have been presented as part of Bodies of Knowledge, a two-day symposium on LGBT issues.
Republican state senator Mike Fair had reacted to the tongue-in-cheek title by decrying the show as a “recruitment” tool, and he said in a TV interview that offering students such material was like exposing them to “skinheads and radical Islam.” Another critic was state senator Lee Bright, who is challenging Lindsey Graham in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate, billing himself as more conservative than Graham. “Folks in Spartanburg aren’t looking for that kind of bent at their local college,” he told Columbia’s The State last week in an interview about the play and conference. The two voted against reappointment of USC trustees because of gay-themed performances and “left-leaning” assigned reading materials, The State notes.
Now “jumping on the irony-proof bandwagon,” reports the Charleston City Paper, is Gary Burgess, one of 13 candidates for state superintendent of education. He issued a press release Monday saying “all of America should be outraged” at the college for scheduling the play.
“Sexual orientation, and teaching children about sexual orientation, is exclusively the purview of the home and Houses of Faith,” Burgess continued. “A seminar teaching young adults how to be heterosexual or homosexual is completely off limits to schools, colleges, and universities. How much training does it take to have human beings, sexual creatures, participate in sex? This is ludicrous. This is dangerous. This is destructive. ... These programs, which try to indoctrinate our children, must be completely defunded, and those who use tax dollars in such a way should be fired.”
The South Carolina legislature is already trying to defund LGBT content in higher education. The House of Representatives in March voted to cut $52,000 in funding from USC Upstate and the College of Charleston for assigning LGBT-themed books as required reading; the Senate is considering the budget now.
Politicians who see inclusion of LGBT topics in schools as a recruitment tool are much misinformed and have “a narrow view of the role of higher education,” USC Upstate chancellor Tom Moore told The State.
“LGBTQ issues are part of any campus life,” he said. “As a public university, it’s our charge to equip and empower students to live engaged, authentic lives and be responsible citizens. Each student has to define each of those things for him or herself. We can’t do that if we exclude some part of the population. We must be a safe place for those who come to us.” Moore also noted that USC Upstate has student groups representing a variety of viewpoints, including Republican and Democratic clubs, an anti-abortion group, and 14 religious organizations.