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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, January 20, 2017 - Volume 45 Issue 03
Education Secretary nominee supports Focus on the Family, charges Lambda Legal
Section One
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Education Secretary nominee supports Focus on the Family, charges Lambda Legal

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Lambda Legal has issued a press release calling for 'a complete confirmation process' for Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump's nominee for Secretary of Education.

'We need a Secretary of Education who will make schools safe for all students, and who won't tolerate bullying - by peers, parents, or school administrators,' Lambda Legal said.

DeVos is not the one to do that, the group concluded.

'She has supported Focus on the Family, which opposes marriage equality, and her family foundation has funded a group that advances the dangerous practice of so-called 'conversion therapy,' the Lambda Legal statement charges.

'Her advocacy for privatizing public education could eject students - LGBT or not - from the protection of federal laws. A complete confirmation process for Betsy DeVos is necessary in order to fully investigate whether she supports equal rights for LGBT students.'

In fact, Focus on the Family is only one of a number of anti-LGBT groups funded by DeVos, her husband, and her family.

According to the Family Equality Council, recipients of the DeVoses' money include the following:

o The Family Research Council and Focus on the Family: During 2012-2014 alone, DeVos, her husband, and her parents' trust donated over $2.2 million to the Family Research Council and over $1.1 million to Focus on the Family. The Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation, which is run by DeVos's in-laws, has donated at least $1 million to Focus on the Family.

o Michigan's Proposal 2: Betsy DeVos and her husband Richard DeVos Jr. are reported to have donated $200,000 to Michigan's 2004 ballot measure to ban same-sex marriage. Three other DeVos family members also supported the anti-marriage equality campaign in Michigan.

o Florida's Amendment 2: DeVos's husband donated $100,000 to the successful 2008 campaign to amend Florida's constitution to ban same-sex marriage.

o California's Prop 8: DeVos's mother, Elsa Prince Broekhuizen, donated $450,000 to support Proposition 8.

o The National Organization for Marriage: The Douglas and Maria DeVos Foundation, DeVos's brother and sister-in-law's foundation, donated at least $750,000 to the National Organization for Marriage, one of the biggest opponents of marriage equality.

At her January 18 Senate hearing, DeVos was questioned about her support for anti-LGBT organizations by Democratic Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota.

After reciting details of DeVos family donations to Focus on the Family and other groups, Franken asked, 'Mrs. DeVos, do you still believe in conversion therapy?'

'Sen. Franken, I've never believed in that,' she replied meekly.

'First of all, let me say I fully embrace equality, and I believe in the innate value of every single human being and that all students, no matter their age, should be able to attend a school and feel safe and be free of discrimination. So let's start there, and let me just say that your characterization of our contributions I don't think accurately reflects those of my family. I would hope you wouldn't include other family members beyond my core family.'

DeVos is also getting strong opposition from two of the country's largest unions, the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), because of her promotion of controversial charter schools.

The unions charge that charter schools can bypass laws mandating teacher standards, education spending, and civil rights protections for students and teachers.

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