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Saying Gay: Help A 17-Year Old Make This Film – Or He Won’t Be Able To



Editor’s note: This guest post is by Devon Hicks, a 17-year old activist living in Knoxville, Tennessee.

For the past six years, Republican Senator Stacey Campfield has been working on a bill that would ban any mention of homosexuality in Tennessee Schools in grades K-8. The “Don’t Say Gay” bill, pitched as a way to keep discussions age appropriate and give parents the power to educate their children on social issues, has a seemingly reasonable foundation. Yet the “side-effects” of the bill are the main concern of many. First and foremost, it establishes homosexuality as a taboo subject — and things that we can’t talk about are normally bad, right? (This is a belief held especially among younger children.) This means that students who may themselves be part of the LGBTQ community, or who perhaps have gay relatives will most likely feel like even more like outsiders. The “Don’t Say Gay” bill also would make it hard for teachers and counselors to address the topic of LGBTQ bullying. And sadly, it almost appears that it is Senator Campfield’s belief that if you don’t talk about gays, maybe they will cease to exist. The bill in its current form bans “any discussion that deviates from normal human reproduction science.” Titled SB49, the “Don’t Say Gay” bill passed the Tennessee Senate 19 to 11 on May 20, and will now go to the House for a vote in January 2012.

Many of the young people who would be effected by SB49 find themselves in very delicate situations. They are at a point in their lives where they are figuring out who they are, and quite often aren’t sure where to turn. They are worried that their parents might not accept them, that their friends may disown them, and maybe even that there may be something wrong with them. Hopefully they’re lucky enough to have friends and family that are supportive, but those that don’t often have to “go back in the closet” and/or face constant bullying and harassment at the hands of relatives and their peers. As we’ve seen in the news, this leads to depression, self harm, and in some cases those affected choose to take their own lives. These young people need a voice, they need support, and more than anything, they need to feel safe.

Over the past three months I’ve been blessed enough to become part of the Tennessee Equality Project Foundation (TEPF). I started a campaign titled “It’s OK To Say Gay*,” which is an effort to raise awareness and provide ways to fight bullying and intolerance in Tennessee schools. TEPF folded it into their organization.

We held a rally to give people a view of our objectives and to identify volunteers, but the rally also was an effort to provide the voice that I spoke of to some of the immediate area’s LGBTQ teens. For this reason,we provided three high school students (all of which identified as homosexual) with the opportunity to share their experiences, and the result was inspirational. Their stories were met with thunderous applause, tears, and a roomful of supportive energy. Those three students “struck a cord,” and moved people more than anything else at the rally.

In the aftermath of the rally, we had a notable amount of media attention, and I had the pleasure of joining George Takei on a new online CBS show called, “What’s Trending.” As I sat waiting for my Skype video line to be pushed live, I received a view into the world of a live production room, and it spiked my nerdy interest. Over the next few days, I kept thinking back to the rally, and to the news interviews and realized that, if people could just see the pain caused by legislation like SB49, the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, maybe people would be more sympathetic.

It had been my goal from the start to stream most of our events live online, but I realized that was not enough. People didn’t need a collection of YouTube videos or a bit of media coverage, they needed a dedicated view into the lives of the Tennessee gay community and the effect SB49 will have on it. They need to see that our LGBTQ students are bullied heavily (and that it’s a problem for straight students too.) The LGBTQ community needs a voice, and with only six months until the House votes on SB49, they need it fast. With all of this in mind, I realized that the answer was a documentary.

I spent several days running over the logistics. What would we call it? What exactly would it contain? What kind of gear would be needed? I didn’t doubt my creative or technical abilities, and I came to discover a large filmmaking community ready to assist me. I then realized that I needed to be able to completely dedicate myself to working on the film, and that was going to be an expense as well.

On May 29 I launched a Kickstarter campaign for “Saying Gay: A documentary about SB49.” The goal is straightforward: provide a view into how SB49, the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, will affect our students and their families and raise awareness about bullying in schools. We will bring students, parents, teachers, lawyers, lawmakers, and therapists in front of the camera in order for them to share their experiences and their analysis. “Saying Gay” will not just be a documentary, it will be a living, breathing thing. As I travel across Tennessee, I’ll film hundreds of people explaing why they think “it’s okay to say gay,” and feature them on our website alongside other extended content. Public screenings will double as discussion forums, and in the process I will be forming “Equality Reel,” a video production company that will focus on developing content for the LGBT community.

In order to fund approximately $13,000 worth in equipment, plus travel, and the ability to work full-time on the film, I set the goal of raising $25,000; and now I’m turning to the community for help.

Every day, students around the country find themselves being verbally and physically assaulted because they are different, and the last thing we need is legislation that makes that even more possible. I want to give a voice to all of those who right now are afraid, and I hope you can help with that. For the cost of a cup of coffee, you can help make a difference and end intolerance.



*Saying Gay is in no way affiliated with the It’s OK To Say Gay Campaign or Tennessee Equality Project Foundation.



Devon Hicks is a 17-year old activist living in Knoxville, TN. He currently sits as the interim committee chair of the Tennessee Equality Project’s “Safe Schools Committee” and started the It’s OK To Say Gay Campaign, which has received national attention. After graduating and moving out at age 16, Devon began putting his love for design and technology to use, starting a small web design business which has now turned into a education and consulting firm for non-profits, showing them how they can use technology in their campaigns and daily management. Saying Gay, a documentary about SB49, will be Devon’s first film.

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Democrats Discredit GOP Claims on IVF as Republicans Try to Regain Ground After Fallout



One week after the Alabama State Supreme Court ruled frozen human embryos are “children,” causing several medical institutions to pause their in-vitro fertilization (IVF) programs, Alabama and the GOP have seen tremendous nationwide anger, upset, and confusion from the left and the right over the decision, the Christian nationalist chief judge, and the Republican Party that set this in motion.

Now, GOP lawmakers and political groups are trying to regain ground after some Republicans quickly embraced the decision that, as White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre predicted Tuesday, would cause “exactly the type of chaos that we expected when the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and paved the way for politicians to dictate some of the most personal decisions families can make.”

“As a reminder,” Jean-Pierre added, “this is the same state whose attorney general threatened to prosecute people who help women travel out of state to seek the care they need.”

President Joe Biden condemned the Alabama ruling: “The disregard for women’s ability to make these decisions for themselves and their families is outrageous and unacceptable.”

But U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) cheered his state’s Supreme Court, while appearing to not fully grasp what IVF is.

READ MORE: ‘Handmaid’s Tale’: Biden Campaign Blasts Trump Christian Nationalism Plans

“I was all for it,” he said of the Alabama Supreme Court ruling, calling young people “our number one commodity.”

But when pressed, Tuberville declared, “I’d have to look at the entire bill, how it’s written, I have not seen it,” referring not to legislation but the ruling.

And when told that women will now not be able to have IVF treatments, Tuberville repeatedly replied it was “unfortunate.”

On Thursday night, speaking to a group of religious broadcasters, Donald Trump denounced the Alabama ruling and vowed to protect IVF. On Friday, the beleaguered Chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) issued a memo directing Republicans to defend IVF. Also Friday, the Attorney General for the state of Alabama, mentioned earlier by the White House Press Secretary, effectively suggested he would ignore the state supreme court’s ruling, promising to not prosecute IVF families, as ABC News reported.

But Democrats are making clear that despite whatever claims or promises Republicans make, the IVF ruling is the direction conservatives are taking the Republican Party.

READ MORE: Smirnov Scandal: Experts Call for Investigations, Warn GOP of Possible Conspiracy Charges

“First Republicans banned abortions so women couldn’t terminate a pregnancy. Now they are coming for IVF so women can’t begin a pregnancy. The GOP agenda is about one thing: government control of women,” observed U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) (photo).

CNN congressional correspondent Lauren Fox reports a new NRSC memo “instructs [GOP] candidates to reject clearly and concisely government attempts to restrict access to IVF.”

Just hours later, Sen. Murphy responded, saying, “umm the chairman of the NRSC sponsored the bill to ban IVF.”

He added, “newsflash: no matter what they tell their candidates to pretend, when they get power they use it to control women.”

The NRSC’s goal is to help get Republicans elected to the U.S. Senate. It is chaired by Sen. Steve Daines of Montana, a MAGA Republican and member of the Senate’s Pro-Life Caucus.

As Bloomberg’s Matthew Yglesias notes, Senator Daines is an original co-sponsor of the Life at Conception Act.

The Center for American Progress’ Colin Seeberger adds, Daines “quite literally has been a longtime co-sponsor of the Lifetime at Conception Act, which would establish legal protections for the unborn just as the Alabama Supreme Court ordered and has led to the suspension of fertility care across AL.”

Meanwhile, Media Matters’ Matthew Gertz notes that the “text of GOP‘s most recent platform claims that ‘the unborn child has a fundamental right to life which cannot be infringed’ and calls for a constitutional amendment that would ban all abortions — and jeopardize IVF — by granting 14th Amendment rights to fetuses.”

READ MORE: Why Was GOP’s Star Witness Re-Arrested? He May Have Been Trying to Flee the Country: Report

Indeed, as The New York Times reported, far-right Christian conservative Tony Perkins, head of the Southern Poverty Law Center-designated anti-LGBTQ extremist group Family Research Council, called the Alabama Supreme Court ruling a “beautiful defense of life and the Alabama Constitution.”

Friday afternoon Donald Trump followed up his vow to protect IVF with a social media post that claims in part, “Under my leadership, the Republican Party will always support the creation of strong, thriving, healthy American families. We want to make it easier for mothers and fathers to have babies, not harder! That includes supporting the availability of fertility treatments like IVF in every State in America. Like the OVERWHELMING MAJORITY of Americans, including the VAST MAJORITY of Republicans, Conservatives, Christians, and Pro-Life Americans, I strongly support the availability of IVF for couples who are trying to have a precious baby.”

Former Obama senior advisor Dan Pfeiffer responded, asking: “Why would anyone believe this? In 2016, Trump pledged no cuts to Medicaid and then spent four years trying to gut the program.”

And as Axios reports, “House Democrats’ main super PAC is promising to pour money into attacking Republicans on fertility treatments in the wake of a controversial, first-of-its-kind Alabama Supreme Court ruling, Axios has learned.”

“Trump’s call came a day after President Biden’s re-election campaign blamed him for the ruling, noting his appointment of conservative justices to the Supreme Court, which overturned Roe v. Wade,” Axios adds. House Majority PAC, in a memo set to be released Friday, listed nearly a dozen current and former House Republicans in competitive districts who have co-sponsored at least one version of the Life at Conception Act between 2021 and 2023.”

See the social media posts and video above or at this link.

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Why Was GOP’s Star Witness Re-Arrested? He May Have Been Trying to Flee the Country: Report



The re-arrest of Alexander Smirnov, the former FBI informant who allegedly may have provided House Republicans with Kremlin propaganda that was the basis for their efforts to impeach President Joe Biden and attack his son Hunter, raised some eyebrows on Thursday.

Smirnov, once considered House Republicans’ Jim Comer and Jim Jordan’s star witness, was re-arrested even after a magistrate judge ordered him released, and at his attorneys’ offices, raising eyebrows from even national security experts, insisting there had better be a good reason for it.

Now, according to a noted legal expert, it appears there was.

“A California judge seems to be suggesting [Smirnov’s] lawyers are complicit in his efforts to flee, in a remarkable line ordering detention for the FBI source whose lies propelled Biden impeachment efforts,” writes professor of law and MSNBC legal contributor Joyce Vance, a former U.S. Attorney.

READ MORE: ‘Insultingly Stupid’: Trump’s Move to Toss Out Classified Docs Case Torn Apart by Experts

U.S. District Judge Otis D. Wright II in his order wrote on Thursday: “It has come to this Court’s attention that counsel for defendant has sought an emergency hearing in the District of Nevada to arrange the release of Defendant Smirnov, likely to facilitate his absconding from the United States.”

After detailing Smirnov’s arrest and release, Judge Wright ordered his re-arrest, adding: “The U.S. Marshal Service is advised there is to be no deviation from this Order.”

Just Security’s Adam Klasfeld calls Judge Wright’s order “wild,” and adds that Smirnoff’s lawyers released “a terse statement about the extraordinary order.”

“They did not respond to questions about the language in the judge’s order suggesting a ‘likely’ aim to ‘facilitate’ their client ‘absconding from the United States.'”

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Vaccine-Laced Lettuce and Tomatoes? Tennessee GOP Lawmaker Worried



A Tennessee Republican state lawmaker says he’s worried Tennesseans might overdose on vaccines if they eat too many tomatoes.

State Rep. Scott Cepicky claims vaccines can already be added to foods like lettuce and tomatoes, and to tobacco products, so he has filed legislation to require grocery store items containing vaccines to be labeled.

“University of California Riverside has already perfected the ability to put human vaccines into our lettuce right now,” Rep. Cepicky told his fellow lawmakers Wednesday while discussing his legislation. “Also, tomatoes, has the ability to do that also per UC Berkeley. And then big tobacco, RJ Reynolds and stuff has perfected the ability to put a human vaccine in tobacco products.”

NCRM could find no evidence supporting his claims, although researchers starting in 2021 were studying if it is possible to do so.

Cepicky, who has been endorsed by U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), warned, “there is no law, deeming those that when you go into a grocery store, you should know as a consumer, this head of lettuce is a head of lettuce. The head of lettuce right next week could contain a vaccine in it. All we’re saying is if it does have the vaccine in it, make sure it’s listed as a pharmaceutical so people can get the proper dosage.”

READ MORE: ‘Insultingly Stupid’: Trump’s Move to Toss Out Classified Docs Case Torn Apart by Experts

Facing some pushback from Democratic Rep. John Ray Clemmons, Cepicky went on to say, “This is more of a consumer protection bill right here, is to make sure that if you’re going in to buy tomatoes, and there’s a polio vaccine in there, that you are aware of what you’re buying has a polio vaccine. The problem you have is if it’s not treated as a pharmaceutical, being the size and difference between you and me, how many tomatoes do I have to eat to get the proper dosage versus how many tomatoes that you have to eat? And if you eat too many do you get a overdose?”

Asked if his legislation was necessity, Cepicky added, “Well, if you’d have a child that is allergic to a certain vaccine, and it’s not disclosed, when you go to buy that, that vegetable, whatever it is, and your child dies from that, I would think that having place is going to make sure that that is treated as a pharmaceutical so that the consumers know exactly what they’re buying.”

Anti-vaxers gained a foothold during the COVID pandemic, spreading false claims about vaccines. Last year the fact-checking website Snopes deemed it “false” that “mRNA from COVID-19 vaccines has entered the food supply via genetically modified plants bred to contain it or through the consumption of vaccinated livestock.”

“Claims regarding COVID-19 vaccines ‘in your salad‘ have persisted on the internet and recirculated due to misreadings or misinterpretations of several press releases or scientific research,” Snopes added, “Mike Flynn, during a September 2021 podcast appearance, referenced this research, describing it as ‘putting the vaccine in salad dressing.'”

READ MORE: Kremlin Infiltration of Congress Alleged by Ex-Trump Prosecutor: Republicans ‘Duped or in on It’

Flynn, the former Trump U.S. national security advisor, is a far-right Christian nationalist and Trump MAGA activist.

Tennessee lawmakers voted to move Rep. Capicky’s forward.

Watch Rep. Capicky’s remarks below or at this link.


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