Two weeks ago a young man, Paul Zilber, was visiting his partner after a suicide attempt and was accompanied by his partner’s grandparents at the Saint Barnabas Behavioral Center. Unfortunately, the visit to the behavioral center in Toms River, New Jersey dissolved into an act of discrimination towards a gay couple. Paul explains when the nurse’s behavior changed quickly when discovering he and his partner are gay. The nurse said. ‘Oh your partner in crime?’ I said, ‘No, I’m his boyfriend, thank you.’ She then sighed and said ‘Oh… .’ She rolled her eyes, and gave me a thumbs up and walked away.” How rude of her.
What’s even more disurbing is when Paul went to give his partner a hug, the staff responded rudely and told him that wasn’t protocol, evven though his partner’s grandparents had just given the newly admitted patient a hug. Paul then asked “why it was okay for everyone else to give hugs and kisses but it was not okay for me?”
You don’t know how much this angers me that a mental health staff conducted themselves in such an unprofessional manner. The first rule of any health profession is to DO NO HARM and the situation was obviously causing the patient more distress. Whatever their own stance this entire situation the Saint Barnabas staff should have NEVER happened in front of the patient.
The experience became even more difficult as Paul sought after answers of his partner’s condition. Paul stated ”I was very upset, and every time I would call a nurse would say, ‘I’m sorry, we have an order that we cannot speak to you, and that he cannot speak to you.’” Fortunately, Paul was told he could come back and visit his partner BUT under this stipulation that Paul ”promises to be appropriate.” Paul’s partner became distressed feeling his treatment was being affected because of his sexuality and his grandparents had him released the following day.
This is more than problematic for several reasons. President Obama issued a mandate in 2010 stipulating that visitation rights be extended to same sex couples. Also the patient himself along with family members had no problems with Paul being there in support. If you see or hear of issues like this be as vocal as possible because no staff working in the mental health field should ever conduct themselves this way.
Don’t ever allow this type of behavior for you are any of your loved ones and speak with the facilities administration. If they are funded federally, they are more than likely held to fair treatment of same sex couples. A petition has been started in show of support. You can sign the petition with over 19000 signatures here.
Let’s put some things in perspective. There’s a difference between free speech and hate speech. Yes, our First Amendment right in this country gives us the right to speak freely on our differing opinions without the fear of persecution. But let’s be honest, in some cases there are consequences to the words we use to express how we feel. If someone threatens another citizen of this country with physical harm, they can be criminally charged with that perceived threat. But what if the motivation of the threat comes from hate because of circumstances or something innate like gender, race, or sexuality?
There are laws that protect against race and gender but it’s not always the case with sexuality. What happens when someone is bullied to the point in harming themselves or others? Or when it potentially provokes others that support that particular sentiment and leads their actions? These actions directed towards someone because of race, sexuality, gender, and even ability. There’s a difference between free speech and hate speech.
While most states in the US have hate crime laws but they vary. Barely 1/3 of the states in our country have laws that protect from discrimation and harassment at the workplace of LGBTQ people. So I can not only be fired from a job because I’m gay but also be harassed and bullied because of my sexuality as well. Am I supposed to just endure this type of hate speech at work? These words of actions can affect every aspect of my life but words are just words? Not in this context.
Despite what some conservative zealots would have you believe, saying of words never hurting is a lie. Words do hurt. Tired of denouncers of homosexuality failing to realize how much bullying can affect gay’s likelihood of committing suicide How is it Christian or Godlike to not care about another human being whose sexuality does not affect their life? Words are powerful enough to build civilization or destroy it. And this is not about taking rights away from anyone or amending those rights in anyway. But there is a a great need for the laws that govern us to protect all of the citizens in this country.
The point is that yes you can say whatever you wish and even though they may not have legal ramifications you damn well better believe that they’re just as powerful and do cause harm. This shouldn’t be a debate about free speech. This is not about taking rights away but ensuring everyone is protected by laws that affect us. Laws, that while protecting one citizen have the potential to be unjust for others. And all should have the moral compass to be mindful of how our words affects others.
Maybe it’s the love everyone hippy mindset of mine, but I don’t want to see anyone hurting. The pain inflicted on the gay community; the threats, the bullying, the “Appreciation Day” are nothing more then expressions of hate. Words are actions too,and our laws should protect everyone.