The man who was un-invited to speak at his former high school's commencement because he's gay has now organized a cadre of fellow singers and actors to perform for the “Live Through Love” concert. Proceeds from the event will go toward the Live Through Love Foundation’s Scholarship Fund, set up by Dominic Sheahan-Stahl himself in response to discrimination he faced from Scared Heart Academy and the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw, Michigan.
Dominic is a 1998 graduate of Sacred Heart whose brother, Willi, was a member of the class of 2012. Last fall, he was invited to speak at commencement, which took place on May 20, but the invitation was rescinded on order of the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw after school staff noticed engagement pictures on Facebook and realized that Sheahan-Stahl, who lives in New York City where marriage equality recently became a reality, is gay.
GLAAD worked with Dominic to share his story and Sacred Heart Academy’s class of 2012’s courageous actions. We called on the media to share the story of Sacred Heart with fairness and accuracy. We sent readers to Let Dominic Speak, promoted his petition on Change.org, and linked to the Facebook page Let Dominic Speak. Over 6,000 supporters signed the petition online.
Dominic was able to deliver the speech he wrote for his brother’s commencement at a student-organized inclusive graduation event called Live through Love, which took place on May 20 in the time between morning Mass and the graduation ceremony. His speech (below) included themes such as hope, love, dreams, and conquering fear.
Dominic's speech, and the student organizing to make it happen sparked a national discussion about the role of young Christians in struggles for LGBT equality. In response to the support from students and community members, Marianne Duddy-Burke, Executive Director of Dignity USA, the nation’s largest organization of LGBT Catholics and their supporters, said:
It is so encouraging to see how Catholics have taken the lead in turning this sad situation around…so many of the students, families, staff from the school, and the Sheahan-Stahl family have acted with love, integrity, and creativity. This reflects how Catholics live our faith every day. We are delighted to see community being built in the face of the hierarchy’s efforts to exclude and divide.
Sadly, many do not see Catholics such as Dominic’s supporters or Sacred Heart Academy’s Class of 2012 standing up for LGBT equality very often in the media. GLAAD’s recent study, ‘Missing Voices: A study of religious voices in mainstream media reports about LGBT equality,’ demonstrated that religious voices are often framed in opposition to LGBT equality, if at all, in mainstream media. GLAAD continues to call on the media to lift up the stories of LGBT-affirming religious people and organizations, as well as carefully reporting on religious groups that are discerning how best to relate to the LGBT community. Even for Dominic, though, the struggle for inclusion can be tough. He told GLAAD:
When this all happened to me, I had never experienced discrimination before. It opened my eyes really wide to the effects it can cause. I'm a grown man and, at times, I wanted to throw the towel in. I cant imagine what its like to be a pre-teen or teen. There will be a day (someday soon I hope) where we wont have to say it gets better, because it will be better.
GLAAD encourages music lovers and LGBT supporters near New York City to go see Dominic perform along with over twenty other artists during the “Live Through Love” event at The Duplex. The event will take place twice, on Monday, July 23rd and Monday, July 30th, at 9 P.M. For reservations, call 212-255-5438 or visit The Duplex online.