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A Rhode Island state representative has received a barrage of criticism since posting comments online last week saying that a high school gay-straight alliance in his district is a venue for students to get "sexed-up" and should cause the school to lose state funding.
The local news website Tiverton-Little Compton Patch carried a story March 28 on the Tiverton High School GSA, approved by school administrators in February. Club founder Cynda Martin, a senior, was quoted as saying, "With the bullying that goes on in schools today, especially for gay kids, it seemed appropriate to have a safe haven for them and their allies." She added that she hopes to show that gays are not "horrible people." The article also included complimentary quotes from a teacher and an administrator.
Among the first online commenters on the story was Republican state representative Dan Gordon. He said, "And this is why if I have anything to say about it, Tiverton will lose school funding to local charter schools. It doesn't matter if gay or straight, if sexual meet-up groups are being promoted in our schools rather than improving test scores, that school is failing. Is it really more important for our children to get 'sexed-up', than learning advanced math?"
A war of words ensued between Gordon and other commenters on the site, with most of them defending the GSA and pointing out that the club is designed to offer students support and acceptance, not facilitate sexual hookups.
Gordon went on Providence radio station WPRO Thursday to explain his stance further. He said he is not antigay, that he has a gay cousin and gay friends, and that he served alongside gay people in the Marine Corps. He also said, "Anything of a sexual nature should not be taking place at a taxpayer-funded facility," adding, "When I was in school, if there was a group for heterosexual students that was going to be meeting after school, I would all day be thinking about who are all the new faces that would be there tonight. That's just human nature." Several callers to the station criticized him, including Rhode Island Democratic Party chairman Ed Pacheco, who said Gordon's comments are "appalling" and that the GSA is meant to promote "diversity, tolerance, and education."
Gordon made no apology for his statements, but he offered to attend a Tiverton GSA meeting -- something about which the members have mixed feelings. Brown University radio station WBRU carried a story on the matter Sunday; listen here.