The family of a US teen who committed suicide has demanded an apology from an anti-gay group that used his death in a speech against LGBT rights groups.
Tyler Clementi, an 18-year-old student at Rutgers University in New Jersey, jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge on 22 September 2010 after his roommate secretly filmed him kissing another man on a webcam.
In a speech to Iowa State University students on February 17, Jennifer Morse of the National Organisation for Marriage (NOM) referenced Clementi’s death when suggesting that giving affirmative support to LGBT people could have negative consequences.
“That kid Tyler Clementi who killed himself, who threw himself off the George Washington Bridge?… There was a much older man in the picture. There’s usually more to the story, right? And so I think friendship is what you have to offer. There are a lot of situations where people are doing something sexual that’s probably not the best thing for them, and that would be better if they had somebody who would be friends with them without coming onto them, or without judging them, and that kind of stuff.”
She went on to say: “When you really get down to it, a lot of the young people are confused and quite lonely, and need help and support, and they’re getting help and support not from the Christian community. They’re getting help and support from the gay activists, who have their own thing that they’re doing, which is not necessarily to help the individuals, but they’ve got some sort of political visions.”
Joe and Jane Clementi angrily responded by stating that, “The very idea that Tyler’s tragedy happened because of too much support – instead of not enough – is ludicrous. Shame on them.
“To exploit our late son’s name to advance an anti-equality agenda is offensive and wrong. By doing so, National Organisation for Marriage prove that not only is there no low they will not sink to, to advance their cruel agenda – but that neither they nor Ms. Morse have any grip on reality,” the parents said.
“This is among the more reprehensible tactics we’ve seen from NOM” said Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation President Herndon Graddick. “Now they’re using Tyler’s story to pit young people against their own peers.”
“That NOM would invoke Tyler as a part of spreading their hateful messages shows a real lack of moral compass,” said Human Rights Campaign Vice President of Communications Fred Sainz. “NOM should do the right thing and immediately apologise to the Clementi family.”
Just one day prior to her speech, Morse spoke at the Catholic Women’s Conference and stated that gay men are desperate to “feel better” about their “deeply wrong” sexuality. She has also compared the acceptance of same-sex relationships to the acceptance of incest and to supporting Nazism. NOM was formed in 2007 to oppose same-sex marriage rights.