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Arkansas

Ark. high school cancels graduation speech because speaker is gay

Thursday, May 9, 2013

A successful television producer says that an informal invitation to speak at his northern Arkansas high school’s commencement ceremonies this year was rescinded because he is gay.

Bryant Huddleston, who has produced “E! News” and “Access Hollywood” and who is currently working on a new show for Bravo, wrote a letter to Superintendent Mitch Walton criticizing the decision to withdraw its offer to speak at his sister’s graduation from Sloan-Hendrix High School. Huddleston graduated from the school in 1990 and his father heads its five-member school board, The Jonesboro Sun reported.

Bryant Huddleston

“I’m curious – did you think my speech would have focused on recruiting youngsters and passing out “Go Straight to Gay” cards over sharing the tools that I used to achieve success?” he asks Walton.

Walton declined to say why Huddleston won’t be speaking, but he said several board members, whom he declined to identify, were against it.

Walton said Huddleston’s father, board president Steve Huddleston, asked him months ago whether his son could speak at graduation. Steve Huddleston said Walton authorized Bryant Huddleston as the keynote speaker.

Then, in an email to board members in late January, Walton said he planned to ask Col. Stan Witt, the Arkansas State Police director and an Imboden native, to speak at the ceremony.

“I got that email (from Walton) that he said he was going to ask Stan Witt,” Steve Huddleston said. “I called Mitch and reminded him of our conversation, and he said he’d forgotten.”

After Steve Huddleston told Walton he had agreed to let his son speak, “(Walton) communicated to (the board) without my knowledge, and said that by a consensus of the board they decided they would rather have no speaker this year,” Huddleston said.

Steve Huddleston said he spoke to the other board members, and that two said they wouldn’t oppose his son speaking but that two others “thought there would be backlash if we allowed an openly gay man to speak.” He said he will resign from the board at the end of the school year.

Walton said school administrators usually pick the keynote speaker, although they have no set process. Paul Austin, a graduate of Sloan-Hendrix who is now the executive director of the Arkansas Humanities Council, spoke at the graduation ceremony last year, Walton said.

The school has about 650 students in Imboden, about 150 miles northeast of Little Rock.

Read Bryant Huddleston’s first-person commentary here.

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Filed under: Arkansas

66 more reader comments:

  1. Well….it IS Arkansas.

    Posted on Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 1:32pm
  2. About what you expect from that state.

    Posted on Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 1:33pm
  3. More like Arkan ASS !

    Posted on Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 1:33pm
  4. He’s gay….So What.

    Posted on Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 1:33pm
  5. I really don’t see how sexuality effects speaking quality… sad , very saddening. Humanity fighting it’s self for what reason?.. >.<

    Posted on Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 1:33pm
  6. why would they even hire the guy if they don’t want a gay speaker. people are literally worthless and probably we should all just be nuked already.

    Posted on Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 1:34pm
  7. How does a person look gay? O_o

    Posted on Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 1:34pm
  8. Oh look the same state had the Little Rock 9 protests are being bigots yet again

    Posted on Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 1:35pm
  9. That is a shame people here in this country cannot accept people as people. These types of events set the United States far behind the rest of the world.

    Posted on Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 1:35pm
  10. I say if they don’t want the graduation because of a gay speaker, then all the students should storm the registrar’s office for their diploma.

    Posted on Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 1:35pm
  11. Jessica I agree with you this is stupidity having someone like this speak knowing he is gay could give moral support and courage to a kid that is going through a really hard time at school because of bullying or anything else and show them that no matter what you can be successful

    Posted on Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 1:36pm
  12. BULLSHIT! That is just BULLSHIT!

    Posted on Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 1:36pm
  13. That’s sad.

    Posted on Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 1:37pm
  14. Sad indeed. That’s when you go to the high school party after the speech and give one dirty talk to the kids! Lol. Recruit, recruit and then recruit some more boys. Or in other words. Help them come out of that scared dark closet! Lol

    Posted on Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 1:37pm
  15. I-G-N-O-R-A-N-T

    Posted on Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 1:37pm
  16. lol yea exactly

    Posted on Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 1:38pm
  17. of course..it’s Arkansas

    Posted on Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 1:38pm
  18. Dismal Shitkansaw

    Posted on Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 1:38pm
  19. I live in Arkansas…..and trust me…this kind of thing happens constantly. So much hate here. It’s a shame. A real shame.

    Posted on Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 1:39pm
  20. ok, I get it…it’s Arkansas. I feel sorry for all the normal people who have to live with these jerks!

    Posted on Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 1:39pm
  21. Sorry you live there ;/, it seems like social genocide…

    Posted on Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 1:41pm
  22. Sue he’s already out. Read the story b 4 speak. Wait I bet ur n breed just like them!!

    Posted on Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 1:42pm
  23. can’t do that unconstitutional free speech.

    Posted on Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 1:43pm
  24. Smh …

    Posted on Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 1:43pm
  25. This is ridiculous, so he’s gay, get over it people. At least he’s proud of who he is but as for the school, they don’t sound like they’re proud at all specially when they do something like this. Maybe that school should be shut down for discrimination.

    Posted on Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 1:43pm
  26. You can’t make this stuff up! There is a reason I don’t live in the South.

    Posted on Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 1:43pm
  27. Matt Hobby, I hope this guy becomes nationally recognizable so you can play him. I sincerely thought it was you in a wig for a second.

    Posted on Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 1:43pm
  28. It’s a horrible place. Depressing. Thank goodness I have plans to run like hell away from here. LOL But anyone different here in most places are looked upon like they have the plague. Even if you are an artist you are looked down upon. The only cities that have any kind of open mind are for sure Eureka Springs, Hot Springs, Little Rock, and Fayetteville. If you are “different” in any way and live anywhere else inthe state then you are going to have a hard way to go and never feel free to be yourself.

    Posted on Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 1:44pm
  29. Boo.

    Posted on Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 1:44pm
  30. That’s fine but don’t have a fit if someone cancels a speaker because they are a Christian…

    Posted on Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 1:46pm
  31. Does he “look” gay because he’s cute to you??

    Posted on Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 1:47pm
  32. Their loss…pathetic parts of the country need to pull themselves from the dark ages.

    Posted on Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 1:49pm
  33. oh god so what let him speak he’s a human being who is graduating this year dman that high school is a homophobi and how can they learn anyting to show repect for their students u dumb ark high shcool district offices ……………

    Posted on Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 1:50pm
  34. what is it? Noah’s Ark……. or Dorthy’s Kansas….

    Posted on Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 1:55pm
  35. Wrong

    Posted on Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 1:56pm
  36. Real Progressive State that Arkansas!!! NOT!!!!

    Posted on Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 1:59pm
  37. And yet people still wonder why “gay (or human) rights” is even an issue. People need to open their eyes to the reality of discrimination and choose to be for it or against it.

    Posted on Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 1:59pm
  38. God forbid that a normal psychologically well adjusted gay man present himself to a group of students to disprove the cliché homophobic image!!

    Posted on Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 2:01pm
  39. bigotry is alive and well in Arkansas

    Posted on Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 2:04pm
  40. Republicans are blind to their own violence and discrimination, which is the real abomination.

    Republicans who claim to hate govenment hypocritically insist on the worst form of government in our human history, religion based on fear and bigotry, for the purpose of protecting the wealthy they divide the people with culture wars.

    Posted on Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 2:04pm
  41. I suppose after his speech EVERYONE in the room would become gay instantly. That IS better than everyone becoming instantly Republican isn’t it?

    Posted on Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 2:05pm
  42. this is 2013….right

    Posted on Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 2:06pm
  43. Figures, it’s the South. Damn Republicans. They should be ashamed of themelves. They owe this young man an apology, how dare they rescind an invitation just because he’s gay. What is wrong with you people?

    Posted on Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 2:09pm
  44. Dislike!!

    Posted on Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 2:14pm
  45. Arkansas has High Schools? Whodathunkit?

    Posted on Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 2:20pm
  46. Take to the Streets Pitch Forks!

    Posted on Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 2:20pm
  47. William House – You sir are correct. They are just like Democrats who use politics based on fear and bigotry for the purpose of protecting the wealthy by diving the people with culture wars.

    Posted on Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 2:23pm
  48. wtf who cares he did the work as everyone else did and probably even better

    Posted on Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 2:23pm
  49. stupid as fuck

    Posted on Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 2:28pm
  50. That’s fucked up.

    Posted on Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 2:33pm
  51. Another reason not to go to Arkansas.

    Posted on Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 2:37pm
  52. yea ritchie it’s arkansas,they’ll replace him with an inbred

    Posted on Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 2:37pm
  53. You gotta be kidding me. Horrible.

    Posted on Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 2:46pm
  54. in Arkansas you cam marry you sister but you can give a speech at your graduation.

    Posted on Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 3:20pm
  55. Such a brilliant reason…..once again, insipid.

    Posted on Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 3:33pm
  56. dispicable!

    Posted on Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 3:33pm
  57. pathetic., treating him like an outcast.

    Posted on Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 3:36pm
  58. Bull crap.

    Posted on Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 3:40pm
  59. The only time I gave even a thought to Arkansas and of course it is about it is just another story that reminds me why I never think about Arkansas.

    Posted on Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 3:44pm
  60. Ballocks !!!

    Posted on Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 3:57pm
  61. True it is Arkansas where being dumb and inbred is a family trait and reason for the honor roll.

    Posted on Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 4:44pm
  62. This unending attitude is part of the reason I got the hell out.

    Posted on Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 4:50pm
  63. Seriously, these people need a life in the 21stC!

    Posted on Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 5:09pm
  64. STUPID!!!!

    Posted on Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 5:38pm
  65. booo

    Posted on Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 6:50pm
  66. perhaps he has a terrible lisp? Arkansas may not be able to understand his accent? They are all afraid of catching the gay flesh eating virus? Or perhaps they are just backwater bigots/

    Posted on Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 6:58pm