- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Accommodations I

The Obama administration has made several efforts in recent weeks to accommodate gay Americans by making little-noticed appointments, announcements and policy changes at federal agencies.

Kevin Jennings, an activist who worked to create “safe spaces” for gay students at schools, has been selected by the Obama administration to become assistant deputy secretary of the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools inside the Department of Education.

As the founder and former executive director of Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), Mr. Jennings coordinated school-centered campaigns, such as the National Day of Silence, when students refuse to speak to raise awareness about bullying against gays.

More than 500,000 students from nearly 6,500 junior high and high schools in all 50 states have participated since the campaign began. GLSEN also hands out “safe space” stickers for students and teachers to post in classrooms, lockers and office doors in order to, according to GLSEN, let students know they are “safe” people to approach for “support and guidance.”

Peter Sprigg, senior fellow at the Family Research Council, said, “I was frankly shocked when I heard about this appointment because Kevin Jennings is a very controversial and polarizing figure.”

Mr. Sprigg pointed to a foreword that Mr. Jennings had written in a book called “Queering Elementary Education: Advancing the Dialogue about Sexualities and Schooling” as well as remarks Mr. Jennings made in a 2000 speech telling the “religious right” to “drop dead.”

When Education Secretary Arne Duncan made the announcement, he praised Mr. Jennings’ work at GLSEN by saying the group “works to make schools safe for all students, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Mr. Duncan has a record on schools and gays as well. During his tenure as head of Chicago Public Schools, he recommended designating a separate high school for gay students called the School for Social Justice Pride Campus.

Accommodations II

Meanwhile, at the State Department, Hillary Rodham Clinton designated June as an agency-wide “Gay and Lesbian Pride Month.”

“Gays and lesbians in many parts of the world live under constant threat of arrest, violence, and even torture,” Mrs. Clinton said in a statement Monday. “The persecution of gays and lesbians is a violation of human rights and an affront to human decency, and it must end. As Secretary of State, I will advance a comprehensive human rights agenda that includes the elimination of violence and discrimination against people based on sexual orientation or gender identity.”

This announcement came on the heels of a policy change at the State Department to give benefits to same-sex partners of U.S. diplomats.

“At bottom, the Department will provide these benefits for both opposite-sex and same-sex domestic partners because it is the right thing to do,” Mrs. Clinton wrote in a memo that was first leaked to gay media outlets before being confirmed by other publications.

‘No apology’ Romney

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney held court Monday at the Heritage Foundation, where he delivered a speech blasting President Obama’s international “apology tour.”

“I take issue with President Obama’s recent tour of apology,” said the 2008 Republican presidential primary candidate. “It’s not because America hasn’t made mistakes - we have - but because America’s mistakes are overwhelmed by what America has meant to the hopes and aspirations of people throughout the world.”

Mr. Romney went on: “The president also claimed on Arabic TV that America has dictated to other nations. No, America has sacrificed to free other nations from dictators. Britain’s Guardian newspaper noted that Mr. Obama has been more critical of his own country, while on foreign soil, than any other president in American history. That would be a most unfortunate distinction at any time. But it is particularly so today: with all that is transpiring in the world, in Iran, North Korea, Georgia, Somalia, Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan, this is the time for strength and confidence, not for apologizing to America’s critics.”

• Amanda Carpenter can be reached at [email protected] times.com.

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