As President Barack Obama basked in the glow of supporters thrilled with his endorsement of gay marriage this week, his presumed opponent in next fall’s presidential election has been dealing with reports that he was an anti-gay prep school bully.
Mitt Romney apologized for pranks he played while in school and said he didn’t remember on described in the Washington Post in which his former classmates recalled him pinning down and cutting off the long blond hair of a boy presumed to be gay.
‘The people involved didn’t come out of the closet until years later, Romney said Thursday. ‘The idea that this is something that was known by me … is obviously absurd. I had no idea that this person might have been gay.’
‘I don’t remember that incident and I’ll tell you I certainly don’t believe that I, I can’t speak for other people of course, thought the fellow was homosexual,’ he also said in the interview. ‘That was the furthest thing from my mind back in the 1960s, so that was not the case. But as to pranks that were played back then, I don’t remember them all, but again, high school days, if I did stupid things, why I’m afraid I got to say sorry for it.’
But to the Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), the leading national education organization in the US focused on ensuring safe schools for all students, Romney’s apology is inadequate.
GLSEN wants Romney to spell out what he would do as president to combat bullying and has launched a letter-writing campaign aimed at the candidate.
The letter states in part: ‘… Tell us what you would do as President to help end the public health crisis that is bullying in this country, and in particular bullying targeted at people who are different. People like your gay classmate who dyed his hair and suffered for it. Nearly 9 out of 10 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students are harassed at school each year because of their sexual orientation. This has to stop.’
It has also surfaced that when he was governor of Massachusetts, GLSEN’s Massachusetts chapter was consistently frustrated with Romney’s cuts to funding for programs that assisted LGBT youth.
‘It’s very clear that Mr. Romney doesn’t get it,’ GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard told The Huffington Post. ‘Bullying, harassment and assault in schools are serious issues. His own behavior was deeply troubling when he was a student, and his actions as governor of Massachusetts were also an assault on the LGBT students that the state had set out to protect.’