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UW students rally against hate
UW students rally against hate
by Mike Andrew - SGN Contributing Writer

As SGN goes to press, students at the University of Washington are preparing for a Rally for a Hate-Free Daily, scheduled for 12:30 p.m. Friday at the HUB. UW freshman Kyle Rapinan organized the rally in response to a November 25 UW Daily article which many students believe constituted hate speech directed against the LGBT community.

One of several articles about California's Prop 8, revoking equal marriage rights, the article by John Fay entitled "Gay marriage? Let's stop and think about this" said, in part, "The potential of open homosexuality for creating social dysfunction has been made manifest in the protests against Prop 8 since Nov. 4 & Once people become accustomed to violating certain social norms, they tend to feel less constrained about breaking others."

Fay also characterized homosexuality as an emotional problem, and compared same-sex marriage to pedophilia, incest, and bestiality. It was accompanied by a graphic depicting a stylized human silhouette with one of a sheep.

As might be expected, Fay's article provoked a storm of protest. On Monday, the Daily printed seven pages worth of letters to the editor protesting their decision to publish Fay's column. The UW Graduate Student Senate is also considering a resolution calling on Daily editor Sarah Jeglum to apologize for the article or resign.

"They're paid to write and they're paid to put out the newspaper. So I thought, 'is my money going to pay for homophobia?'" rally organizer Rapinan recalled.

He immediately began to organize Students for a Hate-Free Daily and called for today's rally. The organization claims more than 800 members. "And we'll probably have 1,000 by next week," Rapinan says.

Rapinan told SGN he expects a significant turn out at the rally. "200 people have already signed up on Facebook," he said. The UW's Office of Minority Affairs and the Q Center are supporting the protest. UW Arts and Sciences Dean Ana Mari Cauce and ASUW President Anttimo Bennett are among the expected speakers.

"My main concern is that the Daily will just dig in its heels," Repinan told SGN. "I'm all for freedom of the press, but the press has to be accountable to its readers. This article hurts people. The editorial staff should explain why they published it. It was an editorial decision to publish the graphic [equating same-sex marriage and bestiality]."

Although he's outraged by Fay's article and Daily editor Sarah Jeglum's lack of response to student concerns, Rapinan is not joining the calls for their resignation. "Homophobia, racism, classism shouldn't be tolerated," he says. "But if John Fay and Sarah Jeglum left the UW tomorrow, all of them would still exist."

"This is definitely a tricky subject," he continued. "We're not trying to censor the Daily. We're not trying to impede John Fay's homophobic attitude. We want to start a dialogue about homophobia and challenge it with education and scientific reasoning."

Daily Editor Sarah Jeglum could not be reached by phone, but she did e-mail the following statement in response to SGN's invitation to comment on today's rally:

"The article that was printed was one opinion in a much larger discussion, just like the rally will reflect a variety of opinions in this larger discussion. The Daily will be covering the rally, and encourages all members of the community to let us know their reflections or reactions to the rally or the group and its mission. The Daily is the paper of every student of the University of Washington, and every person who is part of the University of Washington community."

The current Daily editors are no strangers to controversy. In October they endorsed Republican Dino Rossi for governor against incumbent Democrat Christine Gregoire. The Daily is supported by $200,000 in student activity fees and gets an additional $150,000 in ad revenue from UW departments. This money represents about one third of the Daily's annual revenue, and has led some activists to demand that the paper separate itself from the University and University funding if it wishes to pursue its current editorial policies.

Although he is only 18, Kyle Rapinan is a veteran activist. He has been Washington State Coordinator of GLSEN and a leader in the Gay-Straight Alliance at Shorecrest High School. "Getting bullied," he said, "was really depressing. If it wasn't for the GSA at my school, I'd have gone crazy." He also spent 18 months as a Safe Schools intern with AFSC.

Repinan came out at 14, in his sophomore year in high school. "Then I ran away from home," he recalls. "I was homeless for a couple of years. Then I lived with a Lesbian foster family." The organization Queers for Economic Justice recently published a case study featuring Rapinan and his struggle for access to a university education.

"Community non-profits advocated for me," he says. "I'm here [at UW] only because of Pride Foundation and GSBA scholarships. I want your readers to know that when they give money to students, we're paying back the community."

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