Michigan resident Justin Barr is not your average high school junior. He represents a new generation of LGBT activists who are just starting to make their voices heard. Earlier this year, the Daily News reported that Barr met with city council members in his hometown of Greenville, MI (pop. 8,460) to request they adopt a non-discrimination ordinance in their city.
“At the federal level, it is illegal to discriminate based on factors such as race, religion, age, sex, just to mention a few,” Barr told the council. “It is a common misconception that it is illegal to do the same based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Federal laws do not protect against discrimination based on these attributes.”
Seriously? We wish we had been that well-spoken when we were 16 (or 17).
Barr, who is also the President of his school’s Gay Straight Alliance, went on to say that there are currently 23 states — including Michigan — that do not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
“Some people may say that this is not needed in Greenville; however, experience has proven otherwise,” Barr continued. “There are several staff that work at Greenville Public Schools who are gay. Everyday, they have to hide who they are for fear of being fired because of it. For years, people have tried to get sexual orientation included in the teacher contracts at no avail.”
Barr concluded by asking that the council work on drafting and adopting a non-discrimination ordinance that includes sexual orientation and gender identity.
Afterwards, he was met with universal support from council members, community members, and even Greenville’s Mayor, John Hoppough, who thanked Barr for his talking about the issue.
Fast forward two months when the naysayers have begun to emerge from under the rocks.
Failed U.S. Senate candidate and American Family Association (AFA) of Michigan President Gary Glenn wrote a letter to the Greenville City Council saying:
“On behalf of our many supporters in Greenville, we urge you not to adopt such a discriminatory ordinance, which has proven in other jurisdictions to be used to violate the civil and religious free speech rights of both individuals and cherished community organizations such as the Boy Scouts, Catholic charities and the Salvation Army, and which also poses a threat to the privacy rights of women and children in public restrooms and other public facilities.”
What do women and children in public restrooms have to do with a law protecting someone from getting fired for being gay?
Glenn went on to write:
“To date, homosexual activists have failed to produce a single example anywhere in Michigan, and we doubt the results will be any different in Greenville. Thus, if the report from a city resident is accurate, you are being asked to adopt a discriminatory solution to a non-existent problem.”
Glenn then challenged Barr to identify documented examples of individuals in Greenville who have been denied employment, housing, or service in a public accommodation “based on what kind of sex they have.”
Picking a fight with a minor over sex, no less. This guy is a real class act.
The icing on the cake came in Glenn’s closing paragraph:
“We respectfully urge [the city] not to even consider adopting such a discriminatory and violative proposal, which is clearly a solution in search of a non-existent problem intended only to advance homosexual activists’ drive to have homosexual behavior and cross-dressing defined by law and endorsed by city government as the moral, social and legal equivalents of immutable characteristics such as race, ethnic background and sex.”
Barr, however, was unfazed by Glenn’s homophobic rant.
Said the teenager:
“Adopting a nondiscrimination ordinance that includes sexual orientation and gender identity affirms core American values of fairness and equality for all. It also makes a statement about what kind of city Greenville strives to be, which is a community that values all of its residents and welcomes the contributions of a diverse population.”
Barr then he went on to question how a national group like AFA knows what the people of Greenville would want in regard to a non-discrimination ordinance, and reassured that the ordinance request is “locally grown, locally led and locally supported by the grassroots movement started by none other than a high school student.”
Seriously, this kid is our hero.
Photo credit: Daily News.