FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | March 4, 2005
National Gay and Lesbian Organizations Respond To Defamatory Statements Made By Pinellas County Juvenile Welfare Board Member
(Tampa, FL, March 4, 2005) — On behalf of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) and the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) is demanding a public retraction and apology from the Pinellas County Juvenile Welfare Board (JWB) in response to defamatory statements made by board member Cecilia Burke. NCLR cooperating attorney Carl Schuh is co-counsel on the case.
In a written memorandum addressed and circulated to the entire JWB on February 7, 2005, Burke stated that GLSEN and PFLAG "endorse unhealthy sexual practices among youth, including sex between underage youth and adults." This statement is false.
"This outrageously irresponsible memo is false, scandalous and defamatory, and it is damaging to our clients' reputations," said NCLR attorney Karen Doering. "We cannot allow such slanderous and absurd characterizations to go unchallenged and we are prepared to pursue every legal avenue available to hold the Juvenile Welfare Board accountable."
The groups issued a demand letter to the JWB on March 4 insisting that the JWB immediately retract the false and defamatory statements and write a formal letter of apology, and that Cecilia Burke read the retraction and apology into the record at the next JWB meeting. In addition, the letter requests that the JWB "reaffirm its commitment to promoting, promulgating and using age appropriate and medically accurate information, materials and training regarding health and juvenile welfare." The letter gives the JWB 10 days to comply with the demands before further legal action is initiated. GLSEN and PFLAG reserve all rights regarding further legal action should the JWB not be responsive. "GLSEN staff, volunteers and student organizers from across the country are working hard to ensure schools are safe places for all students," said GLSEN Founder and Executive Director Kevin Jennings. "We cannot and will not allow irresponsible comments to mischaracterize, demean and undercut all of their hard work."
"For more than 30 years, PFLAG has helped families understand that their gay and lesbian loved ones are fine just as they are. By doing so, we save families and save lives," said Ron Schlittler, Interim Executive Director. "We could not let these misinformed, hurtful and unjustified comments by a public official in a public document simply pass. In fact, the viciousness of this attack required that we take this course of action to preserve the truth: first and foremost, PFLAG cares about children and their families."
The National Center for Lesbian Rights is a national legal organization committed to advancing the civil and human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and their families through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education.
Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) is the nation's foremost national family-based organization committed to the health, well-being and civil rights of gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender persons. Founded in 1973 by mothers and fathers, PFLAG has 250,000 members and supporters and over 500 chapters throughout the United States.
GLSEN, or the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, is the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe schools for all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students. Established nationally in 1995, GLSEN envisions a world in which every child learns to respect and accept all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. For more information on GLSEN's educational resources, public policy agenda, student organizing programs or development initiatives, visit http://www.glsen.org/.