In response to attacks directed at SpongeBob SquarePants by antigay religious groups, insinuating that the popular cartoon character is part of a gay agenda, some gay rights leaders are seeking to welcome him into the community, while others are jokingly commending the religious right for exposing the "insidious" threat. The controversy started when James Dobson, head of the notoriously antigay Focus on the Family, accused SpongeBob's creators of enlisting the character in a "pro-homosexual video" in which he appeared alongside children's television colleagues like Barney and Jimmy Neutron, among many others. The makers of the video, Dobson said, planned to mail it to thousands of elementary schools to promote a "tolerance pledge" that includes tolerance for differences of "sexual identity." The video's creators responded that Dobson had confused their program with another gay rights campaign and that there was no sexual identity component to their school video.
But Dobson and his supporters are standing by their accusation, and gay rights leaders are lining up to respond. The Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center's chief executive officer, Lorri L. Jean, on Friday issued the following statement: "If SpongeBob is gay, we want him to know he's not alone. The L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center's youth center and transitional living program can offer him support and a home if he's ever kicked out of his pineapple under the sea or attacked because of his sexual orientation."
"The antigay rhetoric from supposedly 'pro-family' organizations has some serious consequences," Jean continued. "It sends a dangerous message to parents that something is wrong with their gay or lesbian children and contributes to feelings of shame and humiliation among youth. All too often, the result is that gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender youth are forced out by their parents or flee a home that feels unsafe. Many come to Los Angeles, where the Center's 24-bed residence for homeless youth is always full and thousands of other GLBT young people live on the streets. We call on all organizations, especially those that purport to be pro-family, to end their attacks on youth, real or animated. We also invite SpongeBob to join the Center's recently formed gay-straight alliance of cartoon characters that includes Bugs Bunny, Tinky Winky, Waylon Smithers, and Batman and Robin."
Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), who has been a longtime advocate for gay rights, facetiously commended Dobson for "uncovering a plot by SpongeBob SquarePants, Barney, and other icons of children's entertainment to pervert America's youth. Thank goodness Dobson and his team are keeping an eye on these villains. I would never have expected it: A schoolroom cartoon video celebrating tolerance is also a secret weapon in the war to turn our kids gay. Shows how naive I am!... We've seen this before with Tinky Winky, the allegedly gay Teletubby. Simply put, kids' cartoons are no longer safe for kids--at least if we want them to develop into bigoted, narrow-minded adults. But I'll let the schools make that decision."
Gays and their allies respond to SpongeBob "revelation"