Anti-Gay Ark. School Board Member Stepping Down
A member of a northern Arkansas school board who posted controversial anti-gay remarks at Facebook has announced that he will step down. Clint McCane, a member of the Midland school board in northern Arkansas, responded to a Facebook campaign encouraging GLBT people and allies to wear purple in memory of gay teens who killed themselves after enduring anti-gay bullying, commenting that the only way he would wear purple is "if they all commit suicide."
McCance’s remarks created a backlash. He appeared on Anderson Cooper’s CNN news program on Oct. 28 to announce that he would be stepping down from the school board, the Associated Press reported Oct. 29.
"The only thing I can do is extend my apologies for my poor speech," McCance said during his CNN appearance. "I don’t wish death on anyone." McCance added that his commentary had been "Too harsh" and "too emotional," and said that the angry response he had received prompted him to send his family out of state, as he feared for their safety.
In an exchange with a critic at his Facebook page, McCance reportedly wrote, "I would disown my kids they were gay. They will not be welcome at my home or in my vicinity. I will absolutely run them off."
The Advocate broke the story on Oct. 26. "While schools across the country are taking action against bullying and suicide, a board member of an Arkansas school district is using his Facebook page to encourage ’queers’ and ’fags’ to kill themselves," The Advocate’s story said.
"Spirit Day," when gays and allied straights were encouraged to wear purple articles of clothing, was commemorated on Oct. 20. The Facebook page "R.I.P. In memory of the recent suicides due to gay abuse, wear purple," was attacked with a spate of anti-gay postings on Oct. 5.
On his own Facebook page, McCance wrote, "Seriously they want me to wear purple because five queers killed themselves. The only way im wearin it for them is if they all commit suicide. I cant believe the people of this world have gotten this stupid. We are honoring the fact that they sinned and killed thereselves because of their sin. REALLY PEOPLE."
When the comment drew a sarcastic response reading, "Because hatred is always right," McCance fired back with, "No because being a fag doesn’t give you the right to ruin the rest of our lives.
"If you get easily offended by being called a fag then dont tell anyone you are a fag," McCance’s posting continued. "Keep that shit to yourself. I dont care how people decide to live their lives. They dont bother me if they keep it to thereselves. It pisses me off though that we make a special purple fag day for them. I like that fags cant procreate. I also enjoy the fact that they often give each other aids and die. If you arent against it, you might as well be for it."
In response to another challenge, McCance replied, "I would disown my kids they were gay. They will not be welcome at my home or in my vicinity. I will absolutely run them off. Of course my kids will know better. My kids will have solid christian beliefs."
The posting and exchanges took place on a Facebook page that was not available to the general public at the time the story broke. Even so, such messages coming from a school board member drew the condemnation of GLBT advocacy group the Human Rights Campaign. "Clint McCance has put a face on the hate that devastates our young people," HRC president Joe Solmonese said. "McCance shouldn’t be allowed near children, let alone managing their education. We call for his immediate resignation from the school board."
"Without question, this man must lose his board seat," an Oct. 26 article on the posting at Queerty read. "It is not a matter of his First Amendment rights. Let this guy spew all the bile he wants on his own free time (and Facebook page). It is the matter of what’s in the best interest of children--and it is certainly not a man who thinks gay youth should kill themselves. This man just wrote himself into history as a human stain."
The Advocate sought responses from other school officials, to no avail. "The superintendent of the Midland school district was unavailable and a phone call to the principal of the Midland High School was not returned," the article stated. "There was no response to e-mails to the superintendent and to the secretary of the Midland school board."
However, Queerty noted that there were glowing online reviews of Midland High School, which belongs to the northern Arkansas school district. The comment, which appeared at GreatSchools.org, declared, "I am a senior at Midland High School, and I have to say that my years at Midland have been amazing! It is truly a wonderful school with excellent teachers and an amazingly accepting atmosphere. If I am blessed with a family in the future, I will definitely send my children to the Midland Shool [sic] District!"
The controversy continued to play out on Facebook with the establishment of a page titled, "Call for the Resignation of School Board member Clint McCance." Text at the site read, "The bigoted remarks made by school board member Clint McCance have no place in America. There is no way to accept the hatred that he condones to be shown toward homosexuals. We as a country have moved on from the worn out dogmas of the past that so long plagued this great nation. Now as we try our best to move forward and affirm equality for all, we can’t let unwelcome and bigoted remarks like this hinder our progress. I hope that you will join me in calling for the resignation of Mr. McCance and allow true leaders to guide the way. I hope you will stand with me."
A second page, titled "clint mccance" and advertising an Oct. 26 event, received numerous messages condemning the comments. "Set The Damn Midland School District’s Phone Lines On Fire!" wrote one; another posted, "The superintendent Dean Stanley is out of the office all week. Mr. McCance’s voicemail to his business if full. No one who’s number is listed will take any type of message unless it is ’school business." The posting continued, "That is BS my friends. This is not only school business, it should be EVERYONE’S business that this man is on the school board!!" Wrote a third, "This is my former high school. I am stunned that this moron is allowed to be around children. He should be removed immediately."
Another posting advertised "reparative therapy," which claims to "cure" or "convert" homosexuals. "Feeling sinful, man-on-man urges?" read the posting. "THERE IS HOPE! The Lord’s Embrace Ex-Gay Ministry is here for YOU!" The posting included a link to a site called Damn Straight!, where text claimed that politicians such as David Vitter were reaching out to court the "ever-growing Ex-Gay vote."
National Voices for Equality, Education, and Enlightenment executive director Jowhara Sanders told the AP that McCance’s resignation means that his anti-gay sentiments will no longer emanate from a position of authority. Remarking on McClance’s claim that he feared for the safety of his family, Sanders reflected on how "His cyber-bullying has affected his family."
Midland school district Superintendent Dean Stanley wrote in a message to a Midland alumnus that, "Every student life is equally valuable without regard to race, sex, or sexual orientation, religious belief or affiliation." The school district had earlier distanced itself from McCance’s comments. Added Stanley, "Everyone really is someone special and deserves to be treated with care and respect."
Another resident of Arkansas, 11-year-old Will Phillips, made headlines last year when he refused to recite the Pledge of Allegiance along with the rest of his classmates because gays and lesbians do not enjoy the same liberties and rights as heterosexuals. Phillips suffered some harassment at school for having taken that stand--and was targeted by anti-gay groups such as the American Family Association when he subsequently was given the honor of grand marshal in a Pride march--but also generated dialogue about the ways in which GLBTs are relegated to second-class status in the United States.
This is an update and re-posting of an earlier article.
Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor, writing about film, theater, food and drink, and travel, as well as contributing a column. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.