Homosexual Groups Demand Apology From Florida Juvenile Welfare Board

By Melanie Arter | July 7, 2008 | 8:05 PM EDT

(CNSNews.com) - A coalition of homosexual advocacy groups is calling for a public retraction and apology from a Florida county juvenile welfare board because of "defamatory statements" made by a board member.

The Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network and the National Center for Lesbian Rights contacted the Pinellas County Juvenile Welfare Board because of board member Cecilia Burke's comments in written memo on Feb. 7, saying GLSEN and PFLAG "endorse unhealthy sexual practices among youth, including sex between underage youth and adults."

"This outrageously irresponsible memo is false, scandalous and defamatory, and it is damaging to our clients' reputations," said NCLR attorney Karen Doering in a statement.

"We cannot allow such slanderous and absurd characterizations to go unchallenged and we are prepared to pursue every legal avenue available to hold the Juvenile Welfare Board accountable," Doering added.

In a letter sent to the juvenile welfare board on March 4, the groups demanded the immediate retraction of the "false and defamatory statements" as well as a formal letter of apology. The groups are insisting that Burke "read the retraction and apology into the record at the next JWB meeting."

Also, the groups are asking the juvenile welfare board to "reaffirm its commitment to promoting, promulgating and using age appropriate and medically accurate information, materials and training regarding health and juvenile welfare."

The groups have given the board 10 days to comply or face further legal action.

"GLSEN staff, volunteers and student organizers from across the country are working hard to ensure schools are safe places for all students," said GLSEN founder and Executive Director Kevin Jennings in a statement. "We cannot and will not allow irresponsible comments to mischaracterize, demean and undercut all of their hard work."

"For more than 30 years, PFLAG has helped families understand that their gay and lesbian loved ones are fine just as they are. By doing so, we save families and save lives," said Ron Schlittler, interim executive director, in a statement.

"We could not let these misinformed, hurtful and unjustified comments by a public official in a public document simply pass. In fact, the viciousness of this attack required that we take this course of action to preserve the truth: first and foremost, PFLAG cares about children and their families," Schlittler added.

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