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Equal Protection for Sexual Minorities?

OPB | Oct. 11, 2010 9 a.m. | Updated: Sept. 10, 2013 9:39 p.m.

Seth Stambaugh was just another student, trying to get his teaching credential at Lewis & Clark college. That is, until he had a brief but fateful exchange with one of the students he was assigned to teach. A fourth grader asked him if he was married, and he replied that he was not because it was illegal. When the student pressed him further for his reasons, Stambaugh said he would want to marry another guy.

A parent complained, and the district asked Lewis & Clark to find Stambaugh another school. District officials say they value diversity and that Stambaugh’s reassignment had nothing to do with him being gay. Rather, a district spokesperson, says, the issue is one of professionalism and good judgment that was not reflected in that conversation. Stambaugh says he did not read in the school’s conduct code or anywhere else that discussing marital status was unprofessional, and says he believes his abrupt reassignment reflects a violation of his civil rights. His lawyer says he’s preparing to file a lawsuit against the district.

Meanwhile, some gay rights activists are concerned about what gay students are experiencing in the course of their everyday lives. Many are decrying the recent of spate of gay teen suicides. They say that the cultural climate that sexual minorities face leads to discrimination, bullying and, in some cases, can contribute to gay teens’ decision to take their own lives. Seattle author and columnist Dan Savage has started a YouTube project aimed at gay teens, telling them, “It Gets Better,” and that they can live through what many consider the excruciating experience of high school. Activists in Portland have organized a vigil in light of the suicides, and an Oregon State University student has launched a nondiscrimination campaign in Corvallis.

Are you or were you a gay teenager? Have you experienced bullying? How did you handle it? Have you faced discrimination in employment based on sexual orientation? Should teachers or student teachers be restricted in their conversations with students with regard to sexual orientation? If so, why? What are those limits and who should set them?

GUESTS:

NOTE: There’s a fair amount of discussion in the thread about what exactly Seth said to the fourth grader. If you want to listen back, here is how he described the incident to us.

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