Protesters calling for NHCS board member's resignation, supporters defend free speech

Published: Jun. 2, 2015 at 7:58 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 7, 2015 at 4:30 AM EDT
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NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WECT) - A group of protesters are calling for the resignation of a New Hanover County School Board member who called gay marriage a "perverted lifestyle," while supporters say she has a right to her opinion.

Both groups were outside the New Hanover County School board meeting Tuesday night.

All of the attention after board member Tammy Covil posted in the New Hanover Co (NC) Republicans Facebook group calling gay marriage "a perverted lifestyle" in reference to a school system teaching gender fluidity in schools.

Covil posted the following comment:

Yet another example of why the social issues matter in politics. Gay marriage isn't about marriage rights at all, it's about forcing others to accept a perverted lifestyle choice as ‘normal.' It's important to know where the leaders of our party stand on these issues because they have a profound impact on our society. #TheSocialIssuesMatter.

"I think that this lynch mob after Tammy is ridiculous and I'm here to standup for Tammy and for free speech, and just because we have a Biblical opinion doesn't mean we're wrong," Kim Fink, supporter of Tammy Covil said.

"She just happened to share her opinion and I feel like that's an important trait to say here's what I believe and here's why I believe it," said fellow supporter Glenn Fink.

But in total disagreement, members of the Facebook group “Remove Tammy Covil from the New Hanover County School Board” on Facebook said Covil needs to apologize for her comments.

"She is a board member, she is always a board member. She represents New Hanover County Public Schools, and for her to post that in a forum, it just shows blatant unawareness of who she's representing," protester Lynn Shoemaker noted.

After emailing, calling and texting her since this story broke last week, Covil finally spoke to WECT about the backlash.

She said she made the comments in reference to a school system teaching gender fluidity in schools and said she doesn't think sexuality nor religion has a place in the classroom.

In a radio interview with Tyler Cralle, Covil added, "What two consenting adults do behind closed doors is not my business. But as a BOE member and someone who sees this kind of thing on a regular basis, it does become the public's business, because taxpayers do fund public education, when they are attempting to push that in the school system and in the classroom."

Covil also released the following statement Tuesday night:

Now that the dust has settled somewhat and the visceral reaction over comments I made about same-sex marriage and homosexuality have subsided, I would like to take a moment to clarify some misconceptions, particularly since I was not allowed an opportunity to put my comments into context.

My remarks were in direct reference to an article I posted about a school board in Virginia which recently approved the addition of “gender identity” and “sexual fluidity” concepts into their family life education curriculum.

According to the article, the district's recommendations state that, “Students will be provided definitions for the sexual orientation terms heterosexuality, homosexuality and bisexuality; and the gender identity term transgender. Emphasis will be placed on an understanding that there is a broader, boundless, and fluid spectrum of sexuality that is developed throughout a lifetime.”

The term “sexual fluidity” is the point at which I took issue and regarded as perverse. Despite strong opposition from parents, the Virginia school system will now teach children that not only are our physical attributes irrelevant, gender can also shift and change throughout our lifetime. Ostensibly, one could vacillate between male, female, and back to male, based solely on preference and as often as desired.

If homosexuality is purely biological – meaning that sexual orientation is hard-wired in our DNA - how can it also be fluid? There appears to be an agenda to not only redefine traditional marriage, but homosexuality as well. Doesn't this latest characterization of sexuality as a “broader, boundless, and fluid spectrum that is developed throughout a lifetime” contradict and undermine the argument for same-sex marriage?

To be clear, it is not my intent to deny two consenting adults the freedom to enter into a relationship if they so desire. It is not my business, nor do I care about the activities of same-sex couples in the privacy of their own home, anymore than I care about heterosexual couples. That said, when these topics filter down into the public school system and are forced upon children who do not possess the experience or maturity level required to even begin to comprehend them, these topics have entered the public arena and are, therefore, open to debate.

As a representative who was elected to advocate on behalf of children and families in New Hanover County, I believe that most parents would be very uncomfortable with this type of curriculum and if it were to come before our board, I would staunchly oppose it.

The predominant question this poses is, to what degree and at what ages should human sexuality be taught in public schools to begin with? Given the controversial nature of the subject matter in question, I do not think the public school system is the appropriate venue for these discussions. There is simply no way to present them in a fashion that will be sensitive to all viewpoints.

For example, if a course being taught advances the case that homosexuality is an inherent part of human

sexuality, which some believe to be true, are we not then required to teach the opposing belief that there is no concrete scientific evidence to support this premise and that homosexuality is therefore a lifestyle choice?

If there are students who disagree with either hypothesis, do they not have a right to speak in opposition? Once we have chosen this path, where do we set parameters as to what is scientifically and educationally appropriate? Who should determine where those boundaries lie? Are we going to draw the line at homosexuality? Bisexuality? Gender identity? “Sexual fluidity”? How about “Pansexuality”? “Genderless”? “Third-Gender”?

Concepts like “sexual fluidity” have no scientific basis, which suggests that their roots are ideological in nature and are intended to indoctrinate young minds according to a specific agenda. If this is the baseline criterion for educational content, what then are the limits? What sort of resources are taxpayers willing to allocate to fund these programs and at what cost to the fundamental curriculum we are required by law to provide?

The point is, in bringing these topics into the classroom, we involve children in a very complex and provocative examination of human sexuality; of which even the most educated scholars among us cannot come to consensus or find much common ground. As an adult who has suffered vicious attacks for daring to even pose the subject – to the point of threats against my safety – I sincerely doubt that a child would possess the intellectual wherewithal or the courage necessary to offer an alternative perspective.

The more deeply we tread into the issue of sexuality, the more polarizing it becomes. Consequently, it is in a child's best interest to leave the teaching of sexuality to the parent, as it is their responsibility to determine what is morally and ethically appropriate for their family. Far too many school systems today are usurping the rights of parents and it is not only a contributing factor to the decline of the family, it makes a teacher's job much more difficult.

I recognize that some may agree with my stance, while others may not. America was founded on the principles outlined within and protected by our Constitution, most importantly our First Amendment right to free speech. We have the right to express our views, as well as the right to be offended by those with whom we disagree. We do not have the right, however, to bully, threaten, or condemn others for exercising that right.

From a political standpoint, elected officials are not only entitled to an opinion, it is required! Our representatives should possess a core set of beliefs from which to draw when they are presented with difficult decisions while in office. They must also have the ability to delve more deeply into the issues than the superficial, sound bite approach of the media, which is apparently what passes for acceptable journalism these days.

Tammy J. Covil

Protesters aren't buying her explanation. They said this isn't the end of the fight and that they want Covil to apologize to the people she may have offended and resign.

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