Sen. Scott Brown Disses ’It Gets Better’

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Friday July 29, 2011

A year and a half ago, Scott Brown won the Massachusetts seat in the U.S. Senate left vacant by the death of Ted Kennedy and electrified the GOP. At the time, his views on GLBT equality seemed moderate; he went so far as to call marriage parity, which Massachusetts pioneered, "settled" in the state.

Since then, however -- with the exception of a vote to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" -- Brown either opposed or declined to support bills and other initiatives geared toward meeting the needs of the GLBT community. Most recently, the senator refused to join fellow members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation in making a video with an encouraging message aimed at GLBT youth.

The video was made as part of the "It Gets Better" campaign, in which gay and straight celebrities, politicians, and everyday people create messages encouraging GLBT teens not to kill themselves. Gay columnist Dan Savage and his partner launched the campaign last year in response to a rash of gay teen suicides covered in the mainstream media.

That coverage threw a spotlight on a fact that has been well known to mental health professionals and GLBT equality advocates for years: GLBT youth are far more at risk of suicidal conduct than their heterosexual peers. Studies on the neurological impact of bullied teens have demonstrated that the developing brains of youths can be physiologically altered by the sort of harassment, and even violence, that gay youths face. Advocates for anti-bullying programs and laws to protect teens from abuse say that the homophobic harassment GLBT teens suffer is a leading cause of the higher rate of suicide among young gays.

But anti-gay groups oppose anti-bullying efforts, claiming that legislation and programs designed to counter bullying disguise efforts by gays to carry out an "agenda" to recruit young heterosexuals and convert them into homosexuals -- a charge that has been leveled at the GLBT community for at least four decades, but for which no evidence exists.

Rather, mounting scientific evidence points to sexual orientation as an innate and unchangeable personal characteristic. As such, the data suggest, gays are not "abnormal" or stricken by some form of pathology, but rather are part of the realm of natural variation for human sexuality.

But Sen. Brown has not lent his support to any federal legislation meant to address the problem of homophobic bullying, noted a July 29 article at ThinkProgress.

"Brown's spokesperson explained the rejection by saying Brown's 'main focus right now is on creating jobs and getting our economy back on track,' but this is only the latest example of the senator's long history of enabling homophobia," the article said, before going on to provide a rundown of Brown's other anti-gay actions and omissions, both before and during his tenure in the U.S. Congress.

"In 2001, he attacked state Sen. Cheryl Jacques and her domestic partner, Jennifer Chrisler, for deciding to have children, calling it 'not normal,' though later said he chose the wrong words," the article recounted. "As a Massachusetts state senator, Brown voted twice in 2007 to ban same-sex marriage after voting for two similar amendments in 2004."

Moreover, the article said, "Brown took a 'state's rights' position on same-sex marriage in his campaign for U.S. Senate, but in March of 2010, Brown voted for a referendum to overturn marriage equality in the District of Columbia. This was in contradiction to previous statements leaving marriage to the states."

The article also recalled that the senator has spoken out against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, a bill that has been re-introduced to almost every legislative session of Congress for thirty years, but which has never passed.

The article also noted that Brown has relied on campaign cash from groups that specifically oppose legal parity for GLBT citizens and their families.

"Many of Brown's electoral victories have been thanks to the support of anti-gay PACs and organizations like hate-group MassResistance and the National Organization for Marriage," noted ThinkProgress.

Brown is not alone in his refusal to offer support to suffering GLBT youth through an appearance in an "IT Gets Better" video, the article noted.

"To date, not a single elected Republican lawmaker has participated in one of the project's anti-bullying videos," ThinkProgress reported.

The Huffington Post also took note of Brown's snub.

"Of the 12 lawmakers who represent Massachusetts in the Senate and House of Representatives, Brown is the only one who does not appear," the July 27 Huffington Post article reported.

"The Massachusetts lawmakers join a growing list of politicians, including President Obama and Vice President Biden, who have made videos for the project," added the Huffington Post.

Brown has come in for criticism for the snub, but the National Republican Senatorial Committee has responded by launching an attack against the campaign's founder, Dan Savage, reported Politico on July 28. The NRSC blasted Savage as "violent" and "Anti-Christian," Politico reported.

The article cited an email sent by Brian Walsh, the NRSC's communications director.

"If, as the old saying goes, you're known by the company you keep, than the voters of Massachusetts deserve to know who Democrat Party operatives are teaming up with to spread outrageous attacks on Scott Brown's character," Walsh wrote.

"It's truly reached a new level of desperation in their efforts to tear down Scott Brown, but we look forward to hearing whether state and national Democrat leaders agree with Dan Savage's long history of lewd, violent and anti-Christian rhetoric," added Walsh.

Savage sent his own response via email, the article said.

"I am not the IGB project," Savage, who has also ushered a book on the theme of "It Gets Better" into print, wrote. "The project has had the reach and impact that it's had thanks to tens of thousands of people from all over the world who've participated. [A]nd no one who participates is required to crawl into bed with me."

Savage, who has critiques the GOP in strong terms, reiterated the fact that the project to support at-risk youth had received no support from Republican lawmakers.

"It is interesting, though, that not a single GOP elected official can bring himself or herself to make a video, or participate in the creation of one," Savage wrote. "No GOP elected official can risk being seen letting bullied LGBT kids know that life isn't high school and that it will get better for them.

"It doesn't require signing off on the entire gay agenda (the president made a video, and he doesn't support gay marriage)," Savage continued. "No GOP elected can back the seemingly radical notion that LGBT kids shouldn't kill themselves, that they should have hope for their futures.

Savage went on to say that the uniform lack of participation by GOP lawmakers "tells us a lot about the noisiest part of the GOP's base -- lewd (have you seen their websites?) hate groups like Focus on the Family and Americans for Truth About Homosexuality -- and how feared they are by even 'moderate' senators like Scott Brown."

In the video, the entire Massachusetts congressional delegation, save Brown, offers words of support and encouragement.

"It will get better," openly gay Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank says. "It will get better because you're helping it to become better, and this is going to be, in the end, the kind of world we all want to live in."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.