BEN OLSEN | Scroll Illustration

BEN OLSEN | Scroll Illustration

An Amtrak train traveling 106 mph derailed from the tracks in Philadelphia  on Wednesday, May 13, leaving eight people dead and over 200 passengers hospitalized.

Many theories as to why the Amtrak train derailed are being investigated, such as speeding, outdated technology and the sexual orientation of the engineer.

Brandon Bostian, the engineer of Amtrak 188 at the time of derailment, happened to be a gay man. Some media outlets are illogically suggesting his sexual orientation is a factor as to what caused the derailment.

Sandy Rios, host of American Family Radio, said in her show, “I am not inferring—to those of you who are gay rights activists and who like to monitor this show—I’m not inferring that this accident happened because he was gay, but I do think it’s an interesting part of the story, and I bet it will be edited out.”

Rios began her statement saying that she is not suggesting his sexuality was a factor in the crash, but then went on to do just that.

Charles Johnson, a journalist and reporter for tweeted, “Gays have a higher rate of mental illness than do straights. You decide if engineer’s homosexuality is worth noting. I report it. #Amtrak188.”

Johnson also said on Twitter that Wednesday’s “flaming” problem was the Amtrak engine, and on Thursday, the day Bostian’s sexuality was publicized, the “flaming” problem was the engineer. He also said on Twitter that since Bostian is a “flaming homosexual,” prison would not be the best punishment for killing eight people, according to

The problem with these types of statements is that these reporters are making hurtful, homophobic suggestions and presenting it as relevant, newsworthy information, manipulating the consumer to think that the gay community is somehow a danger or threat to society.

Terrible things happen. The Amtrak crashed, and, in due time, investigators should be able to confirm exactly what caused the derailment.

But just because the engineer his a gay man, does not mean the crash was an attack from the gay community.

“It’s a character assault based on one aspect of a man who likely made a horrible, and deadly, mistake,” said H. Alan Scott, a writer and blogger for The Huffington Post. “But instead of looking at all the factors involved in that mistake, we focus on his personal life because it’s an easy target for judgment.”

As illogical and homophobic as these statements from Rios and Johnson might be, these types of comments can lead to even more damaging and inhumane ideals and influences.

In December of last year, the U.S. House of Representatives approved the “Michigan Religious Freedom Restoration Act” that allows EMTs to refuse treatment to gay patients for religious reasons, according to CBS News.

In March, a California lawyer proposed the “Sodomite Suppression Act” that would mandate anyone who has sexual relations with a person of the same sex to be “put to death by bullets to the head,” according to The New York Times.

Essentially, what these statements and bills are suggesting is that the lives of those in the gay community do not matter. Homophobia is at the center of these statements.

Whatever one’s stance on marriage equality might be, we should all agree that spreading homophobic propaganda will not solve anything and will only hurt those in the gay community who are only trying to find their place in society.

LGBT issues are very heated, controversial topics in our society today, but those of the gay community are people too and should be treated as such.

Their sexual orientation is just one aspect of their life.

“We’re all more than a headline,” Scott said. “We’re human, made up of different ideas and experiences that shape who we are. By focusing on one event, and especially one aspect of a person, we’re using this judgment as an answer to the problem, or worse: flat   out discrimination.”

We all can be part of the solution by not saying or supporting homophobic statements and ideas.

We should treat individuals in the gay community with love, value and respect and view them as who they are: human beings.

We do not know the struggles those around us might be going through. Friends, roommates or family members could be going through one of the most difficult challenges in their lives as they try to make sense of their attractions to the same sex.

Our words can have a serious impact on those individuals.

The harm homophobia can cause is bigger than just making a statement that an engineer’s sexual orientation crashed a train; it can harm human life.

We should choose to help society progress in creating a safe space for people to discuss sensitive issues without fearing judgment, condemnation and insensitive remarks.

Approved by an 18-0 vote of the Scroll editorial board.