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Why Preble Street Joined No On 1 in Maine

May 4, 2010

You’ll recall that after the Catholic Church cut off (and asked to be refunded for) its support of Preble Street because of the organization’s support for the No on 1 campaign.  The public responded overwhelmingly and sent a message that this sort of punitive political gesture wasn’t exactly Christian and covered the lost funds.

Last Wednesday, the Portland Press Herald ran an op-ed by Mark Swann, Preble Street’s executive director, and Chris Bicknell, Preble Street’s Teen Center services coordinator, which brings the issue back to its roots.  The reason that Preble Street supported No on 1.

Lost in all the debate over their decision is the reason Preble Street decided to join the Maine Marriage Equality Coalition in the first place.

Here’s why. As many as 40 percent of unaccompanied homeless youth are forced into homelessness because of their sexual orientation. Shame and abuse from families drive LGBT youth into the streets and shelters.

Two weeks ago we learned of a boy in Georgia who gained permission from his school to take a male date to his prom. The news focused on the school’s decision and the support he received from all over the country. Almost incidentally, the article mentioned that because of the media attention he was kicked out of his house.

Because of his sexual orientation, this high school student was no longer welcome in his own home.

In Maine, at Preble Street, we see young men and women in this tragic and terribly sad and lonely situation all the time.

Many young people at the Teen Center have been forced to flee their homes when their parents find their journals or are confronted by their children with emotional struggles around sexual orientation.

Swann and Bicknell go on highlight a few statistics that should make every parent, aunt, uncle, and grandparent stop in their tracks.

  • Suicide is the leading cause of death among gay and lesbian youth.
  • Fifty percent of gay and lesbian youth report their parents reject them due to their sexual orientation.
  • Twenty-six percent of gay and lesbian youth are forced to leave home because of conflicts over their sexual orientation.
  • Approximately 28 percent of gay and lesbian youth drop out of high school because of verbal and physical abuse.
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