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Video project to reassure gay teens follows teacher’s condemnation

Some gay rights groups are trying to bolster the confidence of gay teens after an Indiana teacher said she believes gays have no purpose in life.

Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays state coordinator Annette Gross said over the weekend the “You Have a Purpose” Facebook page will collect videos submitted to encourage gay youth. She compared the project to syndicated columnist Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better” project aimed at deterring bullied gays from suicide.

The project comes after several residents in Sullivan, Ind., including some high schoolers, proposed holding a non-school sanctioned “traditional” prom that would ban gay students. Diana Medley, a group member who is a special education teacher in another school district, made comments in support of the plan, saying she believes being gay is a choice people make and that gays have no purpose in life.

Organizers of the “You Have a Purpose” campaign said that while the project is in response to Medley’s remarks, they don’t want the effort to get bogged down in the Internet storm of criticism aimed at her.

“This is about the kids. This isn’t about her,” Gross said. “We just want to focus on the positive, letting them (gay teens) know that they do have a purpose and there are people out there that care about them.”

The Facebook page will not accept videos aimed at Medley or the prom dispute, Gross said. The page, which went online late last week, was set up by the Interfaith Coalition on Non-Discrimination, Indiana PFLAG, Indiana Equality Action and FairTalk.

“Some people wanted us to march down to the school board and make an issue there, and we just didn’t think it was the right thing to do,” said Marie Siroky, president of ICON, who conceived the page.

Siroky, a minister in the United Church of Christ, is a lesbian who traveled to Iowa four years ago to marry her partner of 18 years. The UCC allows gay couples to marry in the church, and gay marriage is legal in Iowa.

Siroky said the online video campaign is so that “a kid sitting alone in his room wondering if he is going to come out to his parents, he can go on YouTube or the site and see that there are people out there who care about him.”

Medley’s comments have been widely circulated on social networking sites and in news coverage of the story and have led to online campaigns trying to get her fired. A petition on calling for her dismissal had generated more than 18,000 signatures from as far away as the United Kingdom as of Feb. 16, and a Facebook page supporting a prom that includes all students had more than 27,000 likes.

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