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March 29 protest against homophobic budget cuts at College of Charleston

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LGBT advocacy group Southerners On New Ground (SONG) is organizing an on-campus demonstration at the College of Charleston’s Cistern Yard (66 George St.) for 11 a.m. on Sat., March 29.

The protest and press conference are in objection to the school’s apparently homophobic budget cuts initiated by South Carolina’s state legislature.

The school recently lost $52,000 in funding because “Fun Home,” Alison Bechdel’s memoir of a lesbian raised by a gay father, is included in the summer reading program for incoming freshmen students. Univ. of South Carolina-Upstate lost $17,000 in budgeting because an English composition class recommended a non-fiction piece about an LGBT news show on local radio.

State Rep. Garry Smith (R-Greenville) organized the budget cuts because the books were “promoting gay and lesbian lifestyle,” he said.

“These budget cuts will create a hostile environment of silence, censorship, and fear in our institutions of higher education. This is an instance of legislative bullying,” says Jenna Lyles, SONG Field Organizer.

Also organizing Saturday’s event are the South Carolina GSA Network, the Women’s & Gender Studies department at College of Charleston, and activists from the local LGBT community. Students, faculty and staff will join the demonstration, SONG says.

The protest will be the latest response from SONG, which began a website campaign displaying photos of supporters bearing messages to Smith shortly after the budget cuts were approved by state legislature.

Charleston’s Post & Courier recently reported that Smith’s budget cut proposals were influenced by Palmetto Family, an organization promoting faith-based education in the state.

Also operating as a political action committee, Palmetto Family’s stated “core values” are “to transform the culture in South Carolina by reclaiming the values and virtues of marriage, the traditional family model, and sexual purity.”

SONG was created in 1993 to advocate on behalf of the LGBT community, immigrants and other minorities in the Deep South.

Saturday’s event will be the latest in a series of recent protests at College of Charleston.

Beginning March 24, students and faculty have demonstrated against its Board of Trustee’s recent, and apparently politically-influenced, selection of Lt. Governor Glenn McConnell to be the school’s new president.

Not only does McConnell have no experience in education, but he’s also a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, an organization the Southern Poverty Law Center dubs a hate group for being “dominated by racial extremists(.)”

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