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Straight Pride T-Shirts for Sale. Swastika’s Optional

Straight Pride T-Shirts for Sale. Swastika’s Optional

(via Todd Heywood, Michigan Messenger)

State and national organizations who represent the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community are expressing outrage over t-shirts bearing the slogan “Straight Pride” offered for sale at a Saturday rally of the Tea Party Express.

The person selling the t-shirts told the Michigan Messenger that his company — the name of the company could not be made out on the tape due to a loud blast of noise, but it ended in “free media” — was an official sponsor and financial supporter of the Tea Party Express, saying that they typically give 10-15 percent of their sales to the organization. He wore a button saying “official sponsor.”

It was offered for sale at a Capitol rally along with buttons featuring Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin and a host of other conservative causes and ideas. The company also offered other t-shirts carrying slogans like “Fox News Fan,” the Second Amendment written out in the shape of a handgun and a drawing of two stick figures with one holding a gun to the head of the other and labeled “socialism.”

Gay advocacy groups say the shirts are reminiscent of the “white pride” slogan adopted by racist groups who oppose equality.

“It’s like white supremacy,” says Penny Gardner, president of the Lansing Association for Human Rights, a Lansing area lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights group. “It’s as if they are saying the idea of supremacy is some how the American way. The American way is about equality, and equality is all we’re looking for.”

“It sends a message that this is a cause for a certain group of people,” says David Holtz, executive director of Progress Michigan. “That group is older white people, straight apparently. It sends the message that if you are not in the group, you really aren’t welcome.”

“What’s troubling is the idea they are getting support and clearly making money off a vendor who is making money off discrimination against gay and lesbian people,” said Holtz. “And they think that’s OK. That’s what’s troubling.”

The connection comes as a new University of Washington poll found that of those Americans who supported the Tea Party movement, “only 35% believe Blacks to be hardworking, only 45 percent believe Blacks are intelligent, and only 41% think that Blacks are trustworthy. Perceptions of Latinos aren’t much different. While 54 percent of White Tea Party supporters believe Latinos to be hardworking, only 44% think them intelligent, and even fewer, 42 percent of Tea Party supporters believe Latinos to be trustworthy. When it comes to gays and lesbians, White Tea Party supporters also hold negative attitudes. Only 36 percent think gay and lesbian couples should be allowed to adopt children, and just 17 percent are in favor of same-sex marriage.”

image “They are working very hard at being a fringe group, and succeeding,” said Holtz.

“‘LGBT Pride’ has long been an inspiring, powerful and celebratory rallying call, and its appeal is obvious. But this doesn’t appear to be a case of imitation is the highest form of flattery. Instead, it’s veiled homophobia in action, and peddling homophobia and profiting from it are both immoral and unacceptable,” said Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

Daryl Presgaves, spokesperson for the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network GLSEN), said the fundraising connection was “a cause for concern.” GLSEN is a national organization working on creating safe school environments for the LGBT students and staff across the country. He said the group was particularly troubled that parents allowed a young man to purchase the t-shirt.

“It’s sad and troubling that some parents instill values of exclusion and teach their children to disrespect and bully those who are different from them. These shirts promote harassment and bullying of actual or perceived LGBT youth, plain and simple,” he said in a statement. “We hope the parents at the very least have the common sense and decency to not let their children wear such shirts to school, where they would contribute to what is already an incredibly hostile environment for LGBT youth, especially in middle school, where 39 percent of LGBT middle school students experience physical assault in school because of their sexual orientation. Seeing young people where these shirts is yet another reminder of why Friday’s National Day of Silence is as important today as it was when students created it in 1996.”

“It’s shameful,” says Michael Cole, spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign, a Washington D.C. based LGBT rights group. “Homophobia has no place in our country, let alone as a tool for groups to profit from.”

Cole had a message for the candidates who attended the rally Saturday night as well.

“Anyone who is running for office should be mindful of these sorts of practices, because they don’t have a place in our country,” Cole said. “It especially shouldn’t be associated with our elected officials.”

Speaking at the rally were gubernatorial candidates Mike Bouchard and Mike Cox. In addition, Brian Rooney, a candidate vying for the nomination of the Republican party to challenge Mark Schauer, a freshman Democrat from Battle Creek, spoke. Steven Mobley, a candidate for the 62nd district of the state House also addressed the crowd. All of them are Republicans.

“Michiganders who believe in our constitutional values of justice and equality—no matter their sexual orientation, their race, their ethnicity, their age, no matter their political affiliation or religion—must unite against the hatred, the homophobia, the racism being promoted by violent factions in our state,” said Marilyn Vogler, spokesperson for the Democratic Party’s LGBTA Caucus.

“It is clear from events at the April 10 Tea Party Express rally on our capitol steps in Lansing that homophobia and racism are alive and well in Michigan,” said Marilyn Vogler, spokesperson for the Democratic Party’s LGBTA Caucus. “The day was hi-lighted by stark black and white ’straight pride’ shirts, calls to impeach Obama, a poster with a black hand holding a knife stabbing the Statue of Liberty. Certainly, Tea Party folk have a right to express their opinions, but homophobia and racism should not be tolerated, least of all by our elected officials.”

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