This comes from the Associated Press. Around midnight back in 1997 two boys, one 17, and the other an 18-year-old football player were pulled over by a local liquor store in Minersville, PA, a small town about 100 miles North West of Philadelphia. They had been spotted drinking party. They were both charged with M.I.P. The police found two condoms in the car. The teens were then taken to the station where they were “lectured” on the bible and homosexuality. Allegedly the arresting officer F. Scott Willinsky asked the boys if they were “queer”. He also proceeded to say that if they would not admit to being gay that he would “out” them. Marcus Wayman frightened by the potential repercussions of this threat, said to his friend he was going to kill himself. Later in the morning, he found a gun in his grandfather’s house and before 6 a.m. he ended his life. A lawsuit was filed by Wayman’s mother against the city of Minersville following the incident, and on November 5, 2001, the case made it’s way to a federal court in Allentown.
The lawsuit charges three of the Minersville officers (F. Scott Willinsky- arresting officer, Joseph Willinsky-former police chief, Thomas Hoban) with violation of Wayman’s privacy and unspecified damages. (An important building block to this case was the ruling in a federal court in Philadelphia which stated a person’s constitutional right to privacy does include one’s sexual orientation.) Eric Ferro who is an attorney from the ACLU, and represents the Wayman family said, “Many school officials, social workers and others feel they have a duty to share information with parents when they learn that a teenager may be gay” This is exactly the argument of the Sheriff. He said that being in such a small town that he had a lot of influence and therefore had a right to tell people. In a circuit court in which the case was tried before moving on, circuit Judge Carol Lost Mansmann wrote, “…to note our disagreement that the breadth of one’s constitutional rights can somehow be diminished by demographics.” The trial has yet to have an official verdict.
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Analysis: I think that there are a couple of discussions that can come from this event. The first being: if the supreme court believes that sexual orientation is something that citizens have the right to have kept private (due to the potential responses of those around them)why does the rest of the government not do things that will protect the lives of those who have been forcefully “outed” to the public, or those threatened for being GLBT. Secondly, is it the place of the government to enact such laws, do you believe that sexual orientation should be treated with the same regard as the protection of different races? I think that the three officers should be charged with something like an attempt to commit a hate crime. Had these two boys become publicly known homosexuals, they would not only have had a permanent stigma to everyone else, but they could have been physically harmed. I am impressed with the court decision however, it is the decision of the person who is GLBT to come out of the closet. That privilege belongs to nobody else.
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