School officials should be held financially or criminally liable if they tell a student it's OK to be gay and he or she contracts a deadly sexually transmitted disease, Michigan state Rep. Gary Glenn said in a documentary filmed before he took office.
Glenn, R-Midland, shared his views in a 30-minute film released this year titled "Light wins: How to overcome the Criminalization of Christianity," which features a series of interviews with political and faith leaders.
"If some young person hears at school that it's OK to be gay and then comes down with a fatal disease as a result, school officials should be held legally liable, individually and in their official capacities, financially and maybe even criminally," Glenn said in the film.
A paid version of the documentary, which also features GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee discussing religious freedom, has been available online since at least April, but a clip featuring Glenn's segment was posted to YouTube this week and highlighted by the Right Wing Watch website.
The interview was filmed in 2013, according to Glenn, who is also president of the American Family Association of Michigan and co-authored the state's gay marriage ban, which was approved by voters in 2004 and is now before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Glenn said Thursday he does not have plans to introduce legislation to penalize school officials if gay students later contract a disease but indicated that he still agrees with the "legal theory" and would not be surprised to see lawsuits on the issue.
"If the school environment is teaching children that homosexual behavior is normal and healthy, and children, in reliance on what they're taught from authority figures, decide to experiment or engage in such behavior and suffer negative health consequences, somebody ought to be held accountable," he said.
Members of the LGBT community are at an increased risk for some health threats, including HIV/AIDS, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which says there is a need for "culturally competent" medical care and prevention services for the population.
"Differences in sexual behavior account for some of these disparities, but others are associated with social and structural inequities, such as the stigma and discrimination that LGBT populations experience," according to the CDC.
Glenn, asked if schools could help reduce health risks for the LGBT community by teaching safe sex, said he is "old fashioned in that respect" and thinks such education should largely fall to a child's family.
Yvonne Siferd of Equality Michigan, the state's largest LGBT advocacy group, said Glenn's comments "would be laughable if they weren't hyperbolic and so very dangerous," noting high suicide rates among young gay people who hear similar messages rather than affirmation that could be critical to their health and well-being.
"Knowledge is power. As long as we keep our children in the dark about safer sex practices through 'abstinence only' education, we only do them a disservice," Siferd said in an email.
She noted there are not any cases of a person contracting a deadly disease "simply by hearing someone discuss sex" or any cases of anyone suddenly "turning gay" because they heard someone say it was OK to be gay.
"Teaching love and acceptance is more fruitful than pandering to fear," she said.
Glenn, who was elected by voters in parts of Midland and Bay Counties in 2014, is a vocal opponent of same-sex marriage and has fought attempts attempts to enact LGBT anti-discrimination laws and ordinances across the state.
But since taking office in January, Glenn has largely focused on economic and property rights issues. He's sponsored legislation to extend the state's right-to-work law to firefighters and police, change the way roads are funded and limit civil asset forfeiture.
Glenn continues to serve as president of AFA-Michigan, which recently filed a legal brief with the Supreme Court urging respect for Michigan's definition of marriage as a union between one man and one woman.