The New Next Generation

Teen Activist Justin Barr Takes Down Antigay Leader

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.

One-time U.S. Senate Candidate and President of the American Family Association of Michigan Gary Glenn

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.

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  • Christopher

    Amazing and good for him! I’m pleased to say I grew up near his hometown!

  • Dakotahgeo

    We are going to experience more and more of these tremendous youths in the future, shooting large gaps in the anti-GLBT arguments against bigotry and prejudice. More power to Mr. Barr and those people like him!
    Dakotahgeo, M.Div. Pastor/Chaplain

  • unlguyfl

    I love this kid! He’s my doppleganger from when i was 16yo!! I must go meet my future past self!! ;-)

  • amedas

    Thanks for the inspiring (and constructive) article. Please have more write-ups on LGBT youths who use ‘proper’ language to deal with issues constructively. Society needs more decorous citizens or models to remind us all to be civil and decorous to one another.

  • Geoff B

    Wow! At 16 I was one of those snotty teenagers that I revile now that I’m entering my 40’s. This kid puts my 16 year old self to shame. I hope if I ever have a kid they turn out to be half as good as this one.

  • Systemicyco

    Let me start by saying that Justin is very appreciative of everyone’s support.

    Justin is an amazing guy. I am extremely happy to have him as a boyfriend and I’m happy to be on this journey with him.

    Quick correction he is 17.

  • Matt G

    Awesome job Justin!

    the bigot is likely referring to the idea that if you let MTF transwomen in women’s restrooms there will be a flood of predatory heterosexual males dressing in busted drag to prey on women in the bathroom.

    and to borrow a phrase “To date…” fundamentalist christian “…activists have failed to produce a single example anywhere in Michigan”

    see what I did there?

  • Polaro

    Perfect. This is what the new generation can accomplish on the shoulders of those who went before. I am heartily encouraged.

  • BunnyRiot

    Yeah, I really love this kid.

  • Elloreigh

    It’s no surprise that Gary Glenn would open his mouth on this issue, given that he’s the co-author of Michigan’s sweeping marriage amendment that bans any recognition of an agreement other than one man/one woman in marriage, for any purpose. That means no same-sex marriage, no civil unions, no domestic partnerships (our locally recognized, certified domestic partnership was voided by his amendment), and no legal agreements that attempt to approximate the effects of having a legal same-sex marriage.

    It’s all about preventing people from having ANY status for their relationship if it’s not “one man/one woman marriage”.

  • Dixie Rect

    I like this kid – he actually did something positive in the correct way. Its refreshing.

    Typically on this site, we hear about other so called activists, like that Cobly twit and Reichen asshole who run their mouths, but do nothing.

  • yinyangtiger62

    Michigan high school junior Justin Barr is attempting something extremely difficult in the bible belt of the north, Michigan.
    I grew up in a small town in Western Michigan that is very similar to Greenville. These small towns are considered bedroom communities where everyone basically knows everyone else’s business and most just live & let live. There are however sleeper cells of hate throughout Michigan in the townships,cities & farming areas that do horrible & disgusting things. The American Family Association of Michigan hides itself behind the premise of “family values” while it uses fearful lies in attempts to discriminate & fuel falsehoods about gay individuals.

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