Thursday, June 24, 2010

Defending Joe Martins

It's amazing that when it comes to an issue like gay rights that some people can be so narrow-minded and intolerant. I know that seems like an odd way to start a post about defending Joe Martins, but in this case I think the narrow-minded and intolerant ones are those who standing on the "political correctness" soap-box and would prefer to lash out instead of listen.

A little over a week ago Joe found himself in hot water when he proposed a change to the student handbook at Durfee High School. Martins brought up a point of concern regarding the Gay Straight Alliance's involvement in the Boston's Youth Pride Parade. Mr Martins wanted to make sure that parents were aware that if their children were involved in the Alliance that they would have the option of participating in the parade. He wanted parents to have an understanding of what their children may be exposed to if they are involved in the Youth Gay Pride Parade. Personally I saw this as nothing more than the committeeman wanting to make sure that parents were properly informed of what their children may be exposed to and give them the opportunity to decide if they felt it was something they wanted to their child to go to. However his fellow committee member Marilyn Roderick was highly offended by what she perceived to be Martins bigoted and religious views. After the story was reported in the Herald it spurned a letter to the editor and an editorial, both condemning Joe for his daring to question if the parade was a suitable event for all families and all children. And yesterday I heard a WSAR editorial that further spit on the intentions of Mr. Martins.

That night Joe brought up several good points before discussing the Gay Straight Alliance. The first three points all addressed improving standards for educational excellence from raising the passing grade bar (currently a meager 60), changing GPA guidelines for vocational and technical education courses, and the last involved tightening the language on early graduation requirements. It's a shame that the Herald did not find any of those topics worthy of discussion and instead focused solely on the one that caused controversy. It's a shame that Mrs. Roderick introduced the first truly ugly sentiments of the night by accusing Joe of bigotry as if there would be no other reason to possibly question it.

The fact is this has little to do with gay rights or Mr. Martins personal or religious views regarding them, despite what the reactionary and close minded would have you believe. This has everything to do with allowing parents to decide what is appropriate for their child to take part of and be exposed to. I would be willing to bet if the alliance and the parade had nothing to do with homosexuality but instead focused on heterosexual teens and would have kids handing out free condoms and provocatively dressed adults and candid references to sexual preferences and activities NO ONE would have questioned Joe's motives. I'd also be willing to bet parents would be outraged not to have been better informed before.

Of course I would imagine such things are not the true focus of the parade and in reality is only a minor part but it is a part. Why do these concerns turn into bigotry, intolerance, and insensitivity just because it involves a gay pride parade? I think Joe is right to believe that some parents would object to their child being involved in this parade, not because of some intolerance to homosexuality, but because their child may be exposed to things that as a parent they might not feel are appropriate for children of a certain age. In that context it really isn't much different that wondering if parents should be notified when the class in going to see a movie with possibly objectionable language or violence, or go to a museum that may expose children to the images of naked men and women? I don't think so. And somehow I doubt if Joe raised concerns on those issues that anyone would label him as being against cinema or against the arts.


Anonymous said...

What does it take to get some of you people off the Joe Martins bandwagon? Guess you couldn't be blasted off of it even with a nuke.

Parents already have to sign permission slips before their kids can go on any field trips. Joe is smart enough to know that. This was just another chance for him to insert his religious views into a place where they didn't belong. It has happened before if you watch School Committee meetings it just hasn't been covered by the media before.

I especially loved the meeting where Joe was arguing against evolution being included in history books even though the texts in question didn't cover that period of history and Joe knew that and even though that is something that might be covered in a science and not a history book which Joe should've known too.

Joe is an extremist who looks for opportunties to insert his extremist views into places where they don't belong. Is he a smart man? Yes. Does he make good points on certain issues from time to time? Yes. Can you afford to have someone with his extreme views on the School Committee? No.

I'm for voters having to sign a permission slip before they can vote for Joe Martins. He keeps his extreme right wing views pretty well hidden and they only crop up from time to time but the voters of the city deserve full disclosure and to know what and who they are voting for before they vote.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps Joe would but under less scrutiny if he slept through the meetings like his colleague Tim McCoy. I watched this debate at the school committee meeting and I am pretty sure McCoy was asleep the entire time.

Joe is right for questioning a school sanctioned event where middle aged men dressed in leather hand out business cards advertising to teens about leather and bondage. I agree with Lefty, if it was a middle aged man and a heterosexual 13 year old, we would be in an uproar. Maybe someone should test this theory at the next Durfee sporting event and see what the reaction is - I'll bring a box of dental dams and you bring the leather whips and business cards for the kids.

Anonymous said...

sorry, that first line should say *be under less scrutiny

Lefty said...

Anon 10:56,

I agree with you that changing the handbook is probably a waste of time and that parents already have a permission slip to sign. HOWEVER, just what does that permission slip say? I've seen permission slips, they usually cover: date, time, location. Oh, and usually the ever vital bring a bagged lunch.

Had the meeting remained civil (Gee thanks Marilyn!) maybe someone could have suggested that a permission slip would be more effective. Instead we were to busy being reactionary.

I'm glad you agree that Joe is a smart man who brings up good points. As for his personal views, I don't really care! I'm not worried that Joe or any other committee member is going to promote some extremist agenda. There are 7 of them up there and if one were to push some extremist proposal I'm pretty confident it would be shot down right there and then. If by chance it wasn't public outcry would probably take care of it and if that didn't do it, state and federal guidelines would.

sunshine's grandaughter said...

I must disagree with you on this one Lefty. Mr. Martins is definitely aware that permission slips are required on all school trips. I absolutely feel that he took this opportunity to spout off his religious views. While I thought Marilyn Roderick jumping up and call him out as a bigot was a very emotionally charged reaction, I do thank her for standing up for her family, my family and many others who may not have the opportunity to stand up for themselves.
Knowing 2 individuals that contract HIV in their late teens early twenties I do appreciate protection being handed out to these individuals along with directions on how to use them.

Lefty said...


I hate to be stubborn, but what exactly are you disagreeing with?

Joe Martins wasn't asking for the Alliance to be banned from participating in the parade or for the disbandment of the Alliance. He was asking for the hand book to be edited to make parents more aware about what took place at the parade.

Were his motives based on his personal believes? I don't know, but I certainly don't you or anyone else can say for sure.

I would agree the handbook idea really doesn't make sense, but I doubt the permission slip really goes into the detail Joe was suggesting.

Is it wrong to suggest that parents should know what takes place and what their children would be exposed to?

And it's great that you're ok with condoms being handed out, but are all parents? Are you okay with teens being exposed to cross dressing etc? If so fine, but if you're a parent wouldn't you want to be aware, the chance to say no, or at least ask questions?

Anonymous said...

A major point about the permission slips is would it describe the events that parents are authorizing their children to attend.

I highly doubt the permission slip would reference free condoms, dental dams, and Mr. Boston Leather 2009.

Parents should be better informed, and that is why Joe Martins wasn't totally off-base on his point of view.

Anonymous said...

Oh, Lefty. I had to stop reading in your second paragraph with the words : "He wanted parents to have an understanding of what their children may be exposed to . . . "

Do you hear yourself? Exposed to?? Like gay people are some virus you can catch? Like homosexuality is something to warn straight people about or you might turn out that way, heaven forbid?

Exposed to?? Your choice of words, my friend, are just as offensive as were martins. We do not have to warn out kids about gay people. We have to warn our kids about bigoted people who feel that they need to be warned about gay people.

I am very disappointed in you.

Anonymous said...

I think the warnings for parents of what their kids would be exposed to was related to free condoms and dental dams.

How would a parent signing a permission slip for a parade know that there will be free condoms, etc. given away at the event?

sunshine's grandaughter said...

Revising the handbook to describe the event won't change a thing. The same parent that would read the handbook would do their due diligence and look into the event. Adversely, most parents don't even know how to access the student handbook if they needed to.

We are not talking about 1st graders here; we are talking about 14 to 19 yr old young adults, many of which are sexually active.

It takes a village to raise a child but I don't want people like Joe Martins in my village!

Lefty said...


I agree that revising the handbook would make no difference. And perhaps an involved parent would do some research on their own. However not all parents are that involved and even if a parent does their "due diligence" a cursory search might not raise any concerns. (I hasn't for me).

It's also true that many teens are sexually active and certainly more sexually aware than most parents would like! Still I think a parent has a right to be informed about what their children are exposed to. I really don't understand how anybody can object to that. Sure the handbook is a stupid idea, so have a description added to the permission slips.

Maybe this isn't even an issue, and what we're hearing about is a few rare instances and not part of the official parade. Even then does it hurt to discuss the merit of the idea?

If this were a Heterosexual Pride Parade nobody would question Joe's motives, so why is this any different?