Republicans pile on against gay safe schools czar

Sun. October 18, 2009 12:00 AM by Carlos Santoscoy

kevin jennings

Republicans are backing The Call from conservatives that openly gay safe schools czar Kevin Jennings resign, reported.
Fifty-three House Republicans have written to President Obama asking him to remove Jennings.

The lawmakers say Jennings is unfit for the position because he's pushed "a pro-homosexual agenda."

"We respectfully request that you remove Kevin Jennings, the Assistant Deputy Secretary for the Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools, from your administration," the Republicans wrote.

"It is clear that Mr. Jennings lacks the appropriate qualifications and ethical standards to serve in this capacity."

Jennings, 45, is the former executive director of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), a group he founded to address the issue of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in the public school system.

Criticism of Jennings by conservatives began soon after the administration announced his nomination. In a June 2 press release, Peter LaBarbera, president of the anti-gay group Americans for Truth About Homosexuality (AFTAH), called Jennings "radical" and "the antithesis of 'safety'."

The conservative outcry has only grown louder in recent weeks. Earlier in the month, conservative daily The Washington Times, the same paper that paid a male prostitute for the sex scandal story that nearly ended Congressman Barney Frank's career over two decades ago, repeated claims that Jennings violated Massachusetts law when he "covered up" the "sexual abuse" of one of his students.

Over two decades ago while working at the Concord Academy School in Massachusetts, Jennings counseled a student who told him he was having an affair with an adult male. Jennings reportedly told the student to "use a condom."

Conservatives quickly pounced on the story, calling the student a "minor" when he was over the age of consent in Massachusetts and suggesting Jennings put the student in danger by failing report the incident.

Iowa Representative Steve King was the first member of Congress to demand Jennings' ouster. King is also the primary backer of the letter.

In a statement released last week, King said: "Despite serving as the 'safe schools' czar, Jennings has demonstrated a willingness to look the other way on sexual abuse. His life's work has been the promotion of homosexuality, even in elementary schools, and he has demonstrated no qualifications to make students safer in our schools. Jennings is committed to the 'safety' of only a narrow portion of American students, while expressing disdain for religion and traditional values."

King, an ardent gay rights foe, has previously compared gay men and lesbians to fairy tales, "Unicorns, leprechauns, gay marriages in Iowa – these are things you will never find because they just don't exist," and continues to insist that being gay is a choice.

"Their agenda is to shut down preaching of faith from the pulpit," King told One News Now on the subject of Hate Crimes legislation. "Their agenda is to force approval of the homosexual agenda. And destroy marriage nationally is the follow up piece of this."

The administration continues to back Jennings, whom Education Secretary Arne Duncan has called "uniquely qualified for the job."

Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank, the nation's most powerful openly gay elected official, dismissed the Republican outcry as an effort to keep anti-gay issues on the front burner.

"This is just an effort to exploit anti-gay feelings – they have this anti-gay view that they understand is becoming less and less popular with the public," Frank told the website.

Article provided in partnership with On Top Magazine