Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06) Calls on Actor Kirk Cameron to Meet with New Jersey LGBT Teens and Discuss Controversial Comments
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Today, Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06) called on actor Kirk Cameron to meet with a New Jersey teen who wrote to the 1980’s sit-com star requesting an opportunity to meet upon his upcoming visit to Ocean Grove, NJ to discuss his comments calling same-sex marriage “destructive to our civilization.” Cameron’s agent, Mark Craig of Mark Craig Productions, rejected a request by Corey Bernstein for a meeting with Cameron, but encouraged the teen, co-chair of the Garden State Equality Youth Caucus, to “listen online to the interviews and comments” by Cameron that “communicate his heart and thoughts.”
In his letter to Cameron, Bernstein wrote that he felt the actor’s comments regarding the LGBT community and marriage equality “devastated us LGBT youth” and that anti-gay statements are “extremely hurtful and dangerous to these youth.”
After learning of Bernstein’s attempts to contact Cameron and his agent’s response yesterday, Pallone sent a letter to Craig decrying the actor’s comments and calling on him to reconsider meeting with Bernstein and the other members of the Garden State Equality’s Youth Caucus while Cameron is in Ocean Grove, NJ at one of his upcoming public appearances. Bernstein also invited Cameron to attend Garden State Equality Youth Caucus lunch this Saturday, which Pallone will attend himself.
“Words have power,” said Pallone. “I cannot begin to express how proud I am of Corey’s courageous attempt to contact Kirk Cameron and start a constructive dialogue about the impact his words had on Corey and the entire LGBT community. I am, however, deeply disappointed not only in Mr. Cameron’s agent’s refusal to arrange a meeting, but in Mr. Craig’s callous response to Corey suggesting that the teen further expose himself to Mr. Cameron’s hurtful comments.”
In his letter, Bernstein discusses the problem of bullying facing so many LGBT youth in New Jersey and throughout the nation, noting that Cameron’s inflammatory comments could further fuel violence and intolerance.
“In New Jersey, we are still reeling from the loss of Rutgers Student Tyler Clementi, who took his own life after suffering humiliation and bullying at the hands of his college roommate,” said Pallone. “Sadly, we hear more and more incidents of LGBT youth who experience unthinkable pain as a result of the insensitive actions and words by others. No one thinks we can change Mr. Cameron’s views. We are, however, asking him to consider the language he uses when communicating his views, which is why I implored Mr. Cameron to meet with Corey and discuss the impact of his comments on the LGBT community.”
The following is the text of Pallone’s letter to Cameron’s agent, Mark Craig:
July 26, 2012
Dear Mr. Craig:
Yesterday, I was contacted by LGBT teens from the Garden State Equality’s Youth Caucus after one of its members, Corey Bernstein, received an email you sent on behalf of Kirk Cameron. In this email, Mr. Cameron rejects Corey’s request to meet him and the other bullied LGBT teens this weekend when he visits Ocean Grove for a public appearance. These courageous young people are heartbroken by Mr. Cameron’s response, and so am I. As a Member of Congress, I have been disturbed by Mr. Cameron’s statements regarding marriage equality, but I am confounded by his reaction to a teen who reached out to him seeking a meaningful conversation.
I read the letter Corey wrote you, describing how he and other bullied LGBT teens were devastated by Mr. Cameron’s statements that being LGBT is “unnatural,” “detrimental” and “destructive to our civilization.” These statements and others made by Mr. Cameron leave little doubt that he believes LGBT people cannot find the happiness in their marriages that non-LGBT people find in theirs.
The tenor of Mr. Cameron’s words is astonishingly hurtful to LGBT youth struggling with their self-esteem in a world where they and their LGBT peers are often the victims of merciless bullying. I believe your response to Corey only compounds this problem. You told Corey to listen to Mr. Cameron’s interviews and comments online, when in fact those comments were what prompted Corey, on behalf of himself and the other bullied LGBT teens at Garden State Equality, to write to Mr. Cameron in the first place. I find it remarkably insensitive for Mr. Cameron to suggest that these teens, once again, expose themselves to the words that so deeply hurt them upon their first encounter.
On his behalf, you also invited Corey to Mr. Cameron’s talk this weekend – and apparently all are welcome. However, there is little indication that Mr. Cameron’s presentation will reflect the kind of diversity of opinions that would make these teens feel welcome. I also question how Mr. Cameron’s talk, which he says online is “designed to fireproof marriages,” is relevant to these adolescents and young teens.
I submit that Mr. Cameron should remedy the problem with these teens that his words created, even if unintentionally. A start would be for Mr. Cameron to meet the youth who very respectfully reached out to him. Corey made clear that he and the other bullied LGBT teens would appreciate the opportunity to meet with Mr. Cameron just prior to or immediately after either of his two appearances in Ocean Grove this weekend, even if for only a few minutes.
As for Garden State Equality’s Youth Caucus luncheon this Saturday in Ocean Grove, which you said Mr. Cameron could not attend due to scheduling conflicts, I will now be there, and I am honored to do so. But again, that is no substitute for the bullied teens meeting the person whose comments they found so painful. I appeal to Mr. Cameron to meet with these young people when he is in town.
If you or Mr. Cameron would like to discuss this matter further, please feel free to contact Brendan Hennessey in my Washington, D.C. office at (202) 225-4671.
Thank you for your time and consideration and I look forwarding to hearing from you soon on this important matter.
FRANK PALLONE, JR.
Member of Congress