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November 21, 2008 - Chicagoist - LINK

GLBT High School: Was It Really About Segregation?

Plans to create Chicago’s first gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender high school were pulled this week after mounting pressure from Mayor Daley and a group of clergy, who were concerned the school would be a throwback to the days of segregation. Some gay activists, however, believe the segregation charge was a “cover story.” That’s because one of the leading ministers who opposed Pride Campus of Social Justice High School is a supporter of the “sanctity of marriage.”

Earlier this week, the design team behind Pride Campus retooled the plan, which included changing the name, stripping out a curriculum focused on GLBT heroes and broadening the scope of the school to include other students who are bullied. The new proposal was scheduled for a vote this week but was pulled at the last minute by members of the design team, who believed the original goal of the school was lost.

Rev. Wilfredo De Jesus of New Covenant Church in Humbolt Park said he consulted with the design team as they were revising their proposal. De Jesus became a de facto spokesman for a group of 10 clergymen who met with Chicago Public Schools CEO Arne Duncan over concerns that Pride Campus would isolate GLBT students.

What wasn’t mentioned in any of the newspaper accounts was De Jesus’s view on same-sex marriage. In October of this year, De Jesus told Christianity Today that “opposing abortion and homosexuality have been the paramount moral issues for him.” When we reached him at his church for comment, De Jesus told us that he believes in the sanctity of marriage but doesn’t oppose homosexuality. “If a kid wants to be gay, it’s their choice to be gay,” he said. “Don’t call me a bigot or anti-gay. I have family members and friends who are gay.” De Jesus said Pride Campus should be open to all kids who are bullied and not just GLBT students. He supported changing the school’s name and curriculum so that it would be more inclusive to other groups.

“That’s really rich coming from someone who doesn’t support equal rights,” said Andy Thayer, co-founder of the Gay Liberation Network. He said changes to Pride Campus were attempts to “de-gay” the school and that the school always planned on including other students. “The issue of segregation is a cover story for anti-gay opponents,” he said.

Thayer said this is just round one for Pride Campus and is hopeful the measure will garner more support when the design team submits another proposal next year. In the meantime, he said the gay community should take a page from the campaign against California’s Prop. 8. and organize rallies. “We’ve got a battle royale on our hands,” he said.


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