Proposition 8, California's same-sex marriage ban, was declared unconstitutional last week in a federal appeals court. But for one gay student, 18-year-old Ali Azarifar, the celebration quickly turned sour during a class at Orange Coast College.
Azarifar claims that political science professor Ken Hearlson made several anti-gay remarks in his U.S. government lecture on Feb. 7, the day of the court ruling. Some of the alleged comments include:
“Being gay is a sin.”
“No one voted no on Prop 8 because gays are racist.”
“Soon, all of the U.S. will be illegal for the gay community to marry.”
“Gays don't go to black churches because they are racist.”
Hearlson was talking about the upcoming elections when the topic turned to Prop 8. That's when the conservative professor wrote the words, “Gays are racist” on the board, and launched into an anti-gay rant, the student claims.
“I was shaking in my chair,” Azarifar says. “Then I looked around the room and saw people taking notes. . . . We pay to go to school, and to have someone talk like that about me and say those awful things, it's really hurtful.”
The freshman said he raised his hand a couple times to try to debate Hearlson, but was never called on him in the class of 300. The next day, he and his boyfriend, Nolan Robert, made a complaint with Paul Asim, the dean of the school's social science department. “He told us that he gets a complaint [about Hearlson] every semester and that I should drop the class,” Azarifar says. “To me, that was even more hurtful, knowing that he can say whatever he wants and they can't do anything.” Asim could not be reached for comment.
Azarifar and Robert plan to make a formal complaint with the dean of OCC next week.
In 1998, a student said that he told his class that if a homosexual ever taught his child sex education, he'd “string him up by the toes and shoot him in the face with a .357 Magnum.” In 2001, a week after the Sept. 11 attacks, Hearlson was accused of calling Muslim students “Nazis,” “terrorists,” and “murderers.” (An investigative report said that most of the allegations were “unsubstantiated.”) And in 2003, the tenured professor harangued college protestors at a peace rally.
Hearlson, when reached by phone, had no comment on the issue, but did have some choice words for the Weekly.
A gay rights supporter made this flier in hope of bringing attention to Hearlson. Robert, who is active in the gay community, aims to start a larger movement.