It’s funny how issues on local and national levels coincide. For example, we in Utah and the nation are all talking about gays and bullying.
A couple of weeks ago we saw a huge rally in Ogden against bullying. The rally was spurred by the suicide of several teens and the sad fact that some of those dead teens happened to be gay.
Just last week Mitt Romney, Utah’s de facto favorite son presidential candidate, was revealed to have been a high school tormentor of at least one gay student.
Mitt denies being a bully. He uses words like “hijinks” and “pranks.” But five of his school chums, people of varying political persuasion, told the Washington Post they remember the incident as more mean and are still disturbed by it.
Mitt first denied the incident, then said he forgot it, then apologized, then said he’s changed so let’s all move on.
And President Obama, spurred by Vice President Joe Biden’s loose lips, got off the fence and supported gay marriage.
What took him so long? Leadership is leading, not waiting for your vice president to put his foot in your mouth.
It’s a stretch to say government regulating who can marry whom is bullying, but our leaders’ failure to support married gay people does send a message.
That message is all too clear. I know several gay couples, and I am reluctant to name them here. I know the abuse public exposure would bring. So do you.
It is no coincidence we’re hearing these things on the national level because it’s an election year. Both Obama’s decision and Romney’s alleged amnesia reflect careful political calculation.
Obama knows a growing number of Republicans favor gay marriage. Mitt supported gay marriage in Massachusetts, but knows a hard core of the religious right still opposes it.
What does this have to do with Utah?
All politics are local. If Utah pushed back harder on the gay thing, Obama might get braver, Mitt might change his mind again. Stranger things have happened.
Treating people with respect is the first step to treating them fairly. That’s why it’s good to see Ogden OUTreach, a local resource group for gay children, being very loud both for gays and against bullying.
OUTreach held that rally in Ogden, and director Marian Edmonds wants to keep the momentum going. She’s holding another gathering at 7:15 p.m. Thursday at the Weber County Library, 2464 Jefferson Ave., Ogden.
This meeting will feature speakers who work with teens, including George Washington High School Principal Sarah Roberts, several teachers and experts in bullying.
Feel free to go and add to the discussion.
“I want to highlight the positive things that are happening in schools,” Marian told me.
But you ask, “What can I do?”
One thing that came out of the previous rally was that teens need adults they can confide in.
“Eighty percent of LGBT youth don’t know one supportive adult,” Marian said. “If you know an adult who can encourage you and role-model you, that makes a big difference.”
Her idea is “kind of like Big Brothers and Big Sisters,” giving teens an adult who is willing to be supportive, an ear, a mentor.
She’s got 70 volunteers, but something like 300 kids use the OUTreach center. Her number is 801-686-4528.
I’m glad to see her doing this. It’s not about politics. It’s not about gays. It’s about children. Some are gay, some aren’t, too many of both are killing themselves.
Can we all agree that’s bad and do something?
The Wasatch Rambler is the opinion of Charles Trentelman. He can be reached at 801-625-4232, or firstname.lastname@example.org. He also blogs at www.standard.net.