TRACY MORGAN SPEAKS OUT FOR LGBT EQUALITY IN NASHVILLE

Morgan meets with local gay and transgender residents, sends strong message of support to Americans

Rich Ferraro
Director of Communications, GLAAD
(646) 871-8011
ferraro@glaad.org

June 21, 2011

Nashville, TN, June 21, 2011 - The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), the nation’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) media advocacy and anti-defamation organization, today met with Tracy Morgan and local gay and transgender residents of Tennessee at the Nashville Convention Center. Morgan also addressed members of the press and spoke out in support of LGBT equality. Last Friday in New York City, Morgan met with LGBT youth from the Ali Forney Center, the nation’s largest organization serving homeless LGBT youth. Morgan also met with Elke Kennedy, founder of Sean’s Last Wish whose 20-year-old son, Sean, was murdered in an anti-gay hate crime.

Photos of Morgan addressing members of the press in Nashville, Tenn. are available at www.glaad.org/TracyMorgan.

Video of Morgan’s remarks is available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LG56TKa-fsE.

Two weeks ago, GLAAD, HRC, Truth Wins Out, bloggers and community members called on Morgan to apologize and speak out against anti-LGBT violence after he made anti-gay remarks during a June 3 comedy performance in Nashville. During that performance, Morgan also reportedly stated that if "his son were gay … he would pull out a knife and stab [him]."

Today in Nashville Tracy spoke:
"I apologize to Kevin and people that were at the show. I want to apologize to my friends, and my family and my fans and everyone in every community who were offended with this. I didn't know. I didn't mean it… I don’t have a hateful bone in my body. I don’t believe that anyone should be bullied or just made to feel bad about who they are. I totally feel that, in my heart, I don’t care who you love, same-sex or not, as long as you have the ability to love… I don’t really see gay or straight, I just see human beings now... From the bottom of my heart, I apologize to everybody… To err is human, to forgive is divine… Thank you everybody for forgiving me."

"Tracy’s remarks today have the power to reach millions with a message that gay and transgender youth should be met with support from families --not rejection or violence," said Herndon Graddick, Senior Director of Programs at GLAAD. "In a state like Tennessee where anti-gay laws continue to be passed, it’s now more important than ever for allies like Tracy to speak out and let Tennesseans know that homophobia has no place on or off the stage."

“Tracy was sincere and spoke from his heart today,” said Kevin Rogers, who first reported the incident via Facebook. “I decided to speak out and use my voice to inspire others. The best thing that has come from this is a national conversation that anti-gay violence is unacceptable and that homophobia is outdated.”

“Having been a part of meetings with Tracy in New York and Tennessee, I have gotten to know Tracy and listened to his words of apology to the LGBT community. I have a lot of respect for him for standing up, considering there are so many others who are making negative comments,” said Elke Kennedy, founder of Sean’s Last Wish. “He is committed to being an advocate and to using his comedy and his celebrity platform to combat homophobia.

“To all the parents out there who think they cannot love their children because they are LGBT, I would like to tell them that their child has not changed,” Kennedy said. “You should love, hug and support your child and be there for them when they need you. These LGBT youth need their families to stand with them. What would you do if you got a phone call at 4:30 in the morning telling you that something has happened to your child? At that point, you can no longer speak to your child and all you have are regrets. No mother should ever have to bury her child, no mother should ever have to lose her child to hate and violence. No mother should ever have to fight for justice for her child.

“We are lucky to have an organization like GLAAD to expose these issues and work with people to get them resolved in a positive manner,” Kennedy continued. “I am proud to have worked with GLAAD these past four years and will continue to do so.”

Elke’s son Sean was killed by anti-gay violence in 2007 at the age of 20 in South Carolina, when another man called him a f*ggot and punched him so hard it broke his facial bones and separated his brain from his brain stem. Since that day, Elke has traveled more than 140,000 miles to speak in states across the country about hate violence and bullying.

Morgan will also participate in GLAAD’s upcoming “Amplify Your Voice” public service announcement (PSA) campaign. Other participants include Russell Simmons, Rev. Al Sharpton, Kristin Chenoweth, Chaz Bono, Amy Poehler, Rashida Jones, Vinny Guadagnino and Tori Spelling, among others. The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) has partnered with GLAAD to produce the campaign, and NBCUniversal has pledged national airtime. Famed producer Jonathan Murray serves as creative director.

Following their Friday meeting with Morgan on June 17, Jayden Love and Raciel Castillo of the Ali Forney Center issued the following statement:

"We really appreciate that we were able to meet with Tracy Morgan, and that he was able to hear our stories of rejection at the hands of our own families and of being subsequently forced to survive on the streets. Raciel's father insisted that his son's sexual orientation was a 'medical condition' that could be 'fixed' through therapy, and Jayden was expelled by her religious family for being who she is. Our parents' inability to accept us changed our lives for the worse. We hope that our stories have the power to change not only Tracy's perspective, but those of any parent who may be struggling with accepting their child. In the meeting, Tracy clearly took responsibility for his words, and we hope that he will use his platform to make the world a better place for LGBT people."

Carl Siciliano, founder and executive director of the Ali Forney Center, issued the following statement as well:

"As Tracy learned today, family rejection is no joke. Jayden and Raciel's stories speak to the power of homophobic family members to harm their children. As the head of the Ali Forney Center, I have met thousands of other LGBT youths thrown out by their families. Over 70% were abused and assaulted in their own homes simply because they were LGBT. Research shows that these kids are as many as eight and a half times as likely to commit suicide. This problem will not disappear overnight, but we have the power to change it. I hope that Tracy has seen the error and impact of his remarks and that he will educate others about the terrible harm that family rejection does to LGBT youth. Even moreso, I hope this incident will bring attention to this crisis and encourage others to work toward a day when all youth are loved and protected in their own homes."

More information on Morgan's original remarks and the request to apologize from GLAAD, HRC, Truth Wins Out, bloggers and others are available here: http://glaadblog.org/2011/06/10/glaad-calls-on-nbc-to-condemn-tracy-morgan-tirade/.