My Response and Challenge to Frank VanderSloot
February 22, 2012 14 Comments
Frank VanderSloot has released his response to Glenn Greenwald’s Salon.com article. You can read VanderSloot’s statement in its entirety HERE.
As one of the blogs mentioned in the Greenwald piece, I would like to offer my own perspective on a few of his points, as well as issue Mr. VanderSloot a challenge of sorts.
The first time I had ever heard of Frank VanderSloot was during the “It’s Elementary” controversy. I had only recently come out of the closet and was still trying to figure out what exactly it meant to be a gay man living in Idaho.
I remember watching the film, hope filling up inside me, thinking, if only my own teachers had taken the time to explain that it was okay to be who I was and that it was okay to have respect for others regardless of our differences, I could have been saved from years of feeling ashamed, alone and bullied.
Then came Mr. VanderSloot’s billboards and the fight over Idaho public Television’s funding for airing the documentary. I was convinced, and still am to this day, that if those like Mr. VanderSloot could only realize how much good that film could do for those of us growing up in areas like rural Idaho, there wouldn’t have been any controversy at all.
VanderSloot’s billboards read,”Should public television promote the homosexual lifestyle to your children? Think about it.”
The fact that someone would spend the money to accuse the film of promoting a “lifestyle” was and is, in my mind at least, an attack on not only the science of sexuality itself, since we know that there is no such thing as a “homosexual lifestyle”, but also an attack on those who had spent our growing up years bullied, afraid and ashamed of who we are.
To this day I still consider that controversy one of my prime reasons for being involved in the equality movement.
In his letter demanding that I remove my recent article concerning VanderSloot and his ties to the Romney campaign, VanderSloot’s lawyer wrote that I had misinterpreted the billboard message. That I had”wrongfully” suggested that it was anti-gay. “An objective review…makes it clear that Mr. VanderSloot was supporting a completely different point-one dealing with only the appropriateness of the documentary’s subject matter for elementary-school-age children and its funding with tax dollars. …it is simply not true to say that Mr. VanderSloot’s statements or actions were critical of gays, or that he is anti-gay,” he wrote.
I’ll let his comment stand for itself.
The attorney’s letter went on to pick out two other points that I raised in my article. One issue dealt with the reporter who covered the Boy Scout scandal in Eastern Idaho. The other was a $100,000 donation made by his wife, Belinda VanderSloot, in support of California’s Prop 8.
Aside from the quotes from his editor, the reporter can tell his own story, if he so chooses, but the marriage issue is one I consider to be very personal.
Growing up I watched my friends, relatives and loved ones get married and make homes and lives for themselves. I too dreamed of the day when that would be possible for me.
That moment came in 2008 when the California Supreme Court ruled that a voters initiative was unconstitutional. My husband and I were among the 11,000 couples who saw their dreams of having a legally bound marriage come true.
Then along came Proposition 8. It was not only a threat to my own marriage, but to the thousands of gay and lesbian couples who were and are still waiting for the day when two gay men or two lesbian women are considered just as equal in the eyes of the law as Mr. VanderSloot and his wife.
Do I consider the donation an attack on not only my marriage, but on my sexuality?
You bet your sweet Jesus I do.
Prop 8 had everything to do with discriminating against the LGBT community. This is not just my opinion, but the opinion of every court that has heard the Prop 8 case thus far.
VanderSloot’s attorney saw it differently, writing,”the donation should be distinguished from Mr. VanderSloot’s and Melaleuca’s actions. Contrary to the implication of your article, the VanderSloot’s have publicly expressed support for numerous rights of the LGBT community.”
Mr. VanderSloot says in his response to Greenwald’s article that,”When it appears the author has an agenda, we first try a friendly approach. Only when it is evident that the author could care less about the truth and is intent on doing damage for the sake of doing damage, do we raise the possibility of legal action.”
No one called me prior to receiving the letter accusing me of making false, misleading or defamatory statements against Mr. VanderSloot. The letter was the first time I became aware that there was even any objection to my article. In fact, when I replied a few days later that I was working on a response to the letter, I received another e-mail telling me that I had to, “address the issue today or we will have to consider escalating this issue to a much more serious level.”
I chose to remove the article rather than risk finding out what that “escalation” meant.
I also invited the attorney or any other Melilucca representative to go on the record and clear up the issues I had.
That phone call never came.
There is no denying this blog has an agenda, it’s purpose is to serve the LGBTQIA community in Idaho with information, commentary and news with a focus on equality.
Although the letter from VanderSloot’s attorney theorizes that I was,”trying to sway voters away from Mitt Romney and his presidential campaign.” The truth is my only purpose with the article was to call attention to the injustices and harms done by actions I believe were committed against myself, my husband and my community.
Mr. VanderSloot writes in his response,” I have many gay friends whom I love and respect. And I believe they love and respect me. I am very close to some of these very good people. Our company has thousands of gay customers, independent marketing executives, and employees. I believe they feel welcome and valued.”
If that statement is true I would challenge him to publicly show his love and respect for ALL of Idaho’s LGBT community by asking Idaho’s legislature to add the words “sexual orientation and gender identity” to the state’s Human Rights law.
I would challenge him to show how much he cares about us by asking his support in standing up and speaking up for marriage equality, anti-bullying measures and local LGBT programs and services.
Finally, I would challenge him to show his love and respect by allowing sites like Jody May-Chang’s and the Idaho Agenda the freedom to point out when we feel injustices have occurred against against ourselves and our community.