Sam Thoron, former PFLAG president, dies at 79

Sam Thoron sold insurance and raced sports cars — but he was better known for changing the lives of thousands of straight families with gay children.

His decades of work and eventual national presidency of Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, or PFLAG, began on the day in 1990 when his 19-year-old daughter, Liz Thoron, came home from college on vacation and told him she was gay.sam thoron

“I realized our daughter had not changed but that we needed support in integrating this new information into our lives,” Thoron said in an essay he wrote in 2007. “We found that support with PFLAG. I became deeply committed to the principle that my daughter deserves to be treated, in every aspect of her life, with the same respect and dignity as seems to flow so naturally to her two brothers.”

Thoron, who served for four years as national board president of PFLAG, died Nov. 17 of esophageal cancer in his San Francisco home at the age of 79.

Current PFLAG president Kathy Godwin said Thoron’s leadership was “personal, caring, thoughtful and filled with passion — but mostly it was about the right to love, to be authentic, and to share one’s life in joy and dignity.”

“He was the embodiment of what PFLAG stands for,” said Liz Owen, the group’s communications director. “Warm, loving, with a shoulder for everyone. A strong parental voice for equal rights, not just for his own child but for everyone’s.”

A native of Washington, D.C., Thoron was a 1964 graduate of Harvard University and a U.S. Army veteran who had a brief stint as an amateur race car driver in New England until his wife persuaded him, after an accident, to knock it off.

by Steve Rubenstein, sfchronicle.com, November 30, 2018

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L.G.B.T. Students in Oregon Were Bullied and Forced to Read Bible, Report Says

In the hallways of a rural Oregon high school, gay and lesbian students were taunted with homophobic slurs. In the cafeteria, students pelted a transgender student with food.

And when gay and lesbian students got into trouble, the school’s principal assigned a specific punishment just for them: readings from the Bible.

Students detailed those allegations in recent state investigative reports into the North Bend School District, a coastal area about 100 miles north of California. In the reports, gay and lesbian high school students described years of harassment and bigotry from school employees and other students, and a deeply religious culture that silenced their complaints.

The two reports, completed in March by an investigator in the Oregon Department of Education and made public this month, found that top officials in North Bend had for at least the past two school years fostered hostile conditions for gay and lesbian students, hesitated to intervene after reports of sexual harassment and retaliated against a school counselor who had cooperated with the state investigation.

The state found “substantial evidence” of discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students at North Bend High School. “The department finds that discrimination on the basis of sex and sexual orientation may have occurred,” the investigator wrote.

In schools across the country, L.G.B.T. students are more likely to be bullied and suffer depression than their straight peers, studies have found. It is no different in Oregon, gay and lesbian activists said, despite the perception of the state, and particularly places like Portland, as a progressive paradise.

In the state reports, the district denied that students had been mistreated and said that when they had reported cases of harassment, it resolved them promptly and appropriately.

School officials initially denied that students were required to read the Bible as punishment. But they later told investigators it was true, adding that they handed down the punishment not to promote a religion but “to assist students in understanding the effects of certain behaviors.”

The state ordered North Bend in March to settle with a pair of female students whose complaints to the State Department of Education led to the investigation. But no deal was reached, so the state has scheduled a hearing on May 24 with both sides to help mediate a resolution.

North Bend’s superintendent, Bill Yester, said Wednesday that the district disputes many of the state’s findings and will present its evidence at the hearing. He said the Bible was used as punishment only once.

by Matthew Haag, New York Times, May 17, 2018

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