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Gay Michigan man barred from speaking at Sacred Heart Academy graduation to deliver speech at 'Graduation for All: Live through Love'

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Graduating seniors and Dominic Sheahan-Stahl's brother leading #LetDominicSpeak campaign, elected prom king

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

Ross Murray
Director of Religion, Faith & Values, GLAAD
(646) 871-8040
murray@glaad.org

May 15, 2012

New York, NY, May 15, 2012 – After being uninvited from speaking at his high school alma mater because he is gay, Dominic Sheahan-Stahl announced that he will address students from the graduating class of Sacred Heart Academy at ‘Graduation for All: Live Through Love,’ on Sunday, May 20, 2012 at 1:00 PM in Warriner Hall at Central Michigan University. Several students from the graduating class are expected to attend to show support for Sheahan-Stahl and to take a stand in support of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) equality.

The ‘Graduation for All: Live Through Love’ event was organized after Sheahan-Stahl was disinvited to be the keynote speaker at the Secret Heart Academy commencement exercises earlier this month. A third-generation alumnus of Sacred Heart Academy, Sheahan-Stahl was invited last fall to be the keynote speaker for the class, which includes his brother Willi. Shortly after sharing his engagement to his partner via Facebook, the administration at Sacred Heart Academy, with pressure from Bishop Joseph R. Cistone of the Diocese of Saginaw, rescinded Dominic’s speaking engagement. The school’s principal made a public apology for ousting Sheahan-Stahl and has since taken a three-day paid leave of absence. 

More than 5,500 supporters have signed a Change.org petition created by seniors at Sacred Heart Academy to stand with Sheahan-Stahl. See Change.org petition: http://change.org/petitions/sacred-heart-academy-mt-pleasant-mi-stop-endorsing-homophobia.  Groups of Sacred Heart Academy students have also created a YouTube videoFacebook page and are spreading the word on Twitter using hashtag #LetDominicSpeak

After leading online efforts to show support for Dominic, Willi and their friend Lexi (another one of Dominic’s many young supporters), were elected king and queen at Sacred Heart’s prom.

Dominic has written an open letter to Bishop Cistone, inviting him to hear Dominic’s speech at Central Michigan University, and to have a dialogue about the speech.

Full text of Dominic’s letter is available on the Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dominic-sheahanstahl/open-letter-to-bishop-jospeh-cistone_b_1516308.html

“Through the outpouring of love and support that I've received from family, friends, Sacred Heart students and many people I've never even met, I've come to realize that a majority of Catholics support their LGBT brothers and sisters,” said Dominic Sheahan-Stahl. “I was always taught that God is love and I hope that that my brother and other students will come away from my speech with the knowledge that all people deserve to be treated equally.”

A scholarship foundation called “Live Through Love” is also in the process of being established.  A concert is also being planned, the proceeds of which will benefit “Live Through Love.” For more information visit:http://www.facebook.com/events/295650690520384/

“It is so encouraging to see how Catholics have taken the lead in turning this sad situation around,” said Marianne Duddy-Burke, Executive Director of DignityUSA, the nation’s largest organization of LGBT Catholics and their supporters. “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.”

“Sending the message to Michigan’s youth that they, or members of their family, are somehow less than everyone else because they are gay is dangerous, inaccurate and should be addressed immediately,” said Denise Brogan-Kator, Executive Director of Equality Michigan. “Sacred Heart’s actions are yet another reminder that the fight to protect our kids from harassment and exclusion is still present. School districts across the nation should use this as an opportunity to draft policies based on the State Board of Education’s model anti-bullying policy,” she continued. 

GLAAD will be working with Sheahan-Stahl to share his story with media and release footage of his speech.

See more information: www.glaad.org/letdominicspeak

MEDIA COVERAGE:
Huffington Post: www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/26/dominic-sheahan-stahl-denied-being-graduation-speaker-for-being-gay_n_1456891.html
CBS 62 Detroit: http://detroit.cbslocal.com/2012/04/28/gay-alums-commencement-speech-invite-withdrawn/
Daily Mail: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2136102/Former-pupil-vents-fury-invitation-speak-brothers-high-school-graduation-rescinded--gay.html

For more information, visit: www.glaad.org/LetDominicSpeak and for event details visit: https://www.facebook.com/events/295650690520384/