Haven protests O'Donnell's gay rights stance
Published: Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Updated: Tuesday, October 19, 2010 18:10
After members of the on-campus LGBT group Haven heard that Republican Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell would be in Mitchell Hall for a debate against Democratic candidate Chris Coons, they sprung into action to protest O'Donnell's gay rights stance.
Before Wednesday's debate, approximately 45 students gathered on the North Green, waving rainbow flags and gay rights signs, chanting, "LGBT, Christine O'Donnell isn't me."
Matt Coogan, public relations chair for Haven, said the purpose of the protest was to educate people about O'Donnell's gay rights policies. Coogan said that in 1995, O'Donnell expressed her concern that private companies who give same-sex partner benefits to the spouses of their gay employees legitimize the gay lifestyle and desensitize the American public to the LGBT community.
He also said that in 2006, O'Donnell stated homosexuality is an identity disorder, and can be cured.
"Christine O'Donnell has taken positions that are either ignorant in regards to the LGBT community or offensive to the LGBT community," Coogan said.
Haven president Daniel Cole said O'Donnell has a long history of fighting against the LGBT community.
"She is trying to hide it now, but it's kind of clear when she goes to a summit last month and the first flag is to protect marriage, and an organization which held the summit wants to criminalize homosexuality," Cole said.
Coogan said the protest was also held in response to the recent teenage suicides that occurred over the past several weeks, including the suicide of Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi.
Coogan said neglect of the LGBT community leads to depression in gay youth.
"They see politicians like Christine O'Donnell taking these anti-LGBT positions in public and that can lead to a sense of desperation that leads to what happened," Coogan said. "We want to say, ‘We're out here, we're supporting LGBT rights, we're doing this in a public way, so people don't feel alone.'"
Newark resident Lee Horzempa attended the event primarily to support Democratic candidate Chris Coons and did not know Haven would be demonstrating beside her. Horzempa put her Coons sign down for a gay rights sign.
"I am a strong advocate for gay rights," Horzempa said. "I also worked for many years for people with AIDS and HIV, so I go back with the gay community."
She said she believes it would be unfortunate for Delaware if O'Donnell is elected because O'Donnell is unqualified.
"The U.S. Senator is not an entry level job," Horzempa said.
The demonstrators continued to hold signs and shout messages at the top of their lungs: "Hate is not a family value," and "True love has no cure."
Attendee Bill Valentine spoke against Haven's message of equality.
Valentine said he supports O'Donnell because she is a constitutional conservative. He said he does not have a problem with the demonstration itself, but with what the demonstrators were saying.
"I don't think they truly understand what they're saying, because they have equal rights, everybody has equal rights," Valentine said.
Haven president Cole said if O'Donnell gets elected, the rights of the LGBT community will not be protected in the Senate. He said it is because of candidates like O'Donnell that people speak out against homosexuality.
"Our rights matter too, and you can't just trample on us," Cole said.
Clarification: An earlier version of this article did not make it clear who said the protest was a response to the suicides of several gay students. Matt Coogan made that statement. This was an editing error.