Dakota Ary, an honor student from Fort Worth, Texas, is the newest poster child for the National Organization for Marriage. He shared his beliefs on homosexuality, specifically that being gay is a sin and therefore gays can’t be Christian. His beliefs are nothing new; we’ve heard about and read the same arguments a million times before.
So what happened? It’s hard to know. The story varies from reporter to reporter, but one thing should be pretty clear: the case is a little more complicated than the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) would like you to believe. It’s not just about a kid sharing his religious beliefs in class.
Marvin Vann, who is, according to dallasvoice.com, a member of a group called LGBTQ S.A.V.E.S. which was formed to protect LGBTQ students and teachers from anti-gay harassment, acknowledged that conservative media groups focused too much on Ary’s story and not enough on the teacher’s story, Fulbright Scholar Kristopher Franks. Here’s what Vann had to say:
“Concerned that only one side of the incident was being reported, we met Friday night with Mr. Franks. His account contradicts Ary and his lawyer’s version of events, and has been substantiated by several of the other students in class at the time. We found Mr. Franks’ explanation entirely credible.”
Considering this statement and other information from the Dallas Voice, the story starts to look very different. It shifts from an innocent Christian kid simply sharing his beliefs like he would in Sunday School to something akin to intimidation. And not just an isolated incident, but a series of incidents building and leading up to the incident NOM focused on in the video.
According to the Dallas Voice, the comment referred to in the NOM video was “the latest in an ongoing series of incidents in which Ary and a group of three of his friends have made anti-gay comments to and about [Franks].” Apparently, the photo in question had been posted by Franks for another class he teaches, Sociology. Students in that class had torn up the photo and then other students had replaced the photo with a hand drawn version. And then another group of students, probably the ones who tore it down, replaced it with a verse from the Bible, Leviticus to be exact. In case you’re not aware of what the Bible says about homosexuality, here’s a verse:
What’s more, Franks, according to reports by the Dallas Voice, had been the subject of other anti-gay harassment and intimidation including hateful messages left in his classroom and vandalism to his car. Moreover, there appeared to be general problems at the school with teachers harassing and bullying other teachers and retaliation occurring against victims who spoke up. There’s no information on where Franks stands as far as bully of victim, but it helps to understand the backdrop and potential for tension at the school on an administrative level.
So take NOM’s video with a grain of salt: the incident is a little more complicated and nuanced than NOM would have you believe. It’s important to consider all the information out there before forming an opinion.
Finally, conservatives have a tendency to use cases like this to suggest that marriage equality brings with it an increase in cases like these. It’s important to point out that if marriage equality is to cause situations like this, gay marriage must already exist. According to Wikipedia, Texas does not recognize any form of same-sex unions.
What’s awesome is that in places like Maryland, people are getting at the facts. Same-sex marriage laws don’t change laws about school curriculum; laws about school curriculum change laws about school curriculum.