Nicholas Sparks apologizes to LGBTQ community

Nicholas Sparks is apologizing to “members of the LGBTQ community” in the wake of the release of emails that appear to back the claims of a former employee who accused the author of homophobia.

“The Notebook” author posted a Facebook statement on Monday saying he failed to be “unequivocal” in his support for LGBTQ students at the Epiphany School of Global Studies, a private K-12 Christian school Sparks co-founded.

“As someone who has spent the better part of my life as a writer who understands the power of words, I regret and apologize that mine have potentially hurt young people and members of the LGBTQ community, including my friends and colleagues in that community,” Sparks wrote.

Saul Hillel Benjamin, the former headmaster of Epiphany, filed a lawsuit against Sparks and the school’s Board of Trustees in 2014 accusing the author of willfully keeping minority students out of the school, banning students’ exposure to non-Christian faiths and discouraging staff from helping bullied LGBTQ students.

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LGBTQ history makers

Bayard Rustin (1912-1987) - Civil rights activist and openly gay man. He served as an advisor to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and organized the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

(Photo by Patrick A. Burns/New York Times Co./Getty Images)

James Baldwin (1924 – 1987) - Civil rights activist and author from Harlem. He wrote his second novel in 1956 -- "Giovanni's Room." The work dealt explicitly with homosexuality and was published at a time when few other writers dared to publish gay-themed works, according to LGBT History Month

(Photo by Robert Elfstrom/Villon Films/Gety Images)

Alan Turing (1912-1954) - British mathematician whose work is widely acknowledged as the foundation of research in artificial intelligence.

(Photo by Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

Moms Mabley (1894 – 1975) - Lesbian stand up comedian who starred in films and frequently headlined at the Apollo Theater. 

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Marsha P. Johnson (1945-1992) - A famous transgender woman and LGBT activist, Johnson was a veteran of the Stonewall Riot in New York City. She and Sylvia Rivera founded STAR: Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries in 1970 to push for trans rights and offer shelter for homeless transgender teens.

(REUTERS/Diana Davies-NYPL/Handout)

Josephine Baker (1906 – 1975) - Singer, dancer and actress who became very popular in France in the 20s. She was also a civil rights activist. Baker was bisexual -- she married and divorced several men, as well as carrying on affairs with women, including Mexican artist Frida Kahlo.

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Harvey Milk (1930-1978) - First openly gay man to be elected to public office in California when he served on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977.

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Alexis Arquette (1969 – 2016) - Transgender actress who transitioned to female in her 30s. She is known for her roles in films like “The Wedding Singer” and “Last Exit to Brooklyn.”

(Photo by Paul Archuleta/FilmMagic)

Sally Ride (1951-2012) - America’s first woman in space waited until her death to tell the world that she was gay. The NASA astronaut’s obituary referred to “her partner of 27 years.” After Ride’s death, her sister wrote in an essay that she hopes “it makes it easier for kids growing up gay that they know that another one of their heroes was like them.”

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Lesley Gore (1946 – 2015) - The famous American singer, most known for her hits “It’s My Party” and “You Don’t Own Me,” was openly gay.

(Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Tennessee Williams (1912-1983) - Williams was a Pulitzer Prize-winning American playwright, who wrote some of Broadway's most successful shows -- including 'A Streetcar Named Desire' and 'Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.' Several of his works were adapted into Oscar-winning films, starring Marlon Brando and Elizabeth Taylor, among other famous actors at the time. 

Williams was in a relationship with his longtime partner, Frank Merlo, for 14 years until Merlo's death in 1963. 

Matthew Shepard (1976 – 1998) - Shepard was a student at the University of Wyoming when he was killed in a horrific hate crime. At the time, hate crime laws did not extend to the LGBTQ community. His death sparked a nationwide debate and ultimately led to the passing of new legislation -- the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act (2009)

(Photo credit ANDREW CUTRARO/AFP/Getty Images)

Audre Lorde (1934 – 1992) - She considered herself “a black feminist lesbian mother poet.” She was also a vocal civil rights activist and leader for the advancement of the LGBT community.

(Photo by Robert Alexander/Archive Photos/Getty Images)

Nancy Kulp (1921 – 1991) - Lesbian actress most known for her role as Miss Jane Hathaway in the popular ‘60s sitcom "The Beverly Hillbillies."

(Photo by Bettmann via Getty Images)

Rock Hudson (1925 – 1985) - The legendary actor kept his sexuality a secret at the height of his Hollywood fame in the '60s. Hudson was diagnosed with AIDS in July 1985 and revealed he was gay in a press release just months before he died in October of the same year. 

His death is credited with fueling Elizabeth Taylor's AIDS advocacy. 

Alvin Ailey (1931 – 1989) - American choreographer and LGBT activist, Ailey formed the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater in New York City in 1958. His dance company welcomed and celebrated black dancers who were frequently ignored by major companies. 

American drag queen and actor Divine (1945-1988, born Harris Glenn Milstead) - Milstead, who identified as male, found mainstream success with his drag persona -- Divine. Divine's biggest hit was in 1988's 'Hairspray,' playing the role of Edna Turnbald. 

At the peak of his fame, he died of an enlarged heart. 

(Photo by Tim Boxer/Getty Images)

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Sparks has denied the allegations. But emails obtained by The Daily Beast last week appear to back at least some of Benjamin’s claims. 

Benjamin alleged Sparks told him “black students are too poor and can’t do the academic work” asked of the school’s students. In one November 2013 email from Sparks obtained by The Daily Beast, the writer said the school’s lack of diversity “has nothing to do with racism” but rather “money” and “culture.”

The former headmaster also said Sparks supported a group of students who had bullied the school’s LGBTQ students and shot down an attempt by faculty and students to form a school club for LGBTQ students, which he said the author dismissively called “the Gay Club.” Benjamin also alleged two bisexual instructors were threatened with termination when they came forward to support LGBTQ students.

In a separate email obtained by The Daily Beast, Sparks told Benjamin he “chose to rock this boat early and hard ... with what some perceive as an agenda that strives to make homosexuality open and accepted. ... As for the ‘Club,’ there obviously can’t be one now.”

In his apology on Monday, Sparks expressed his support for “the principle that all individuals should be free to love, marry and have children with the person they choose, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation.”

He also attempted to address the dispute surrounding the LGBTQ club, saying he didn’t object to the group but rather to how it was being formed.

“My concern was that if a club were to be founded, it be done in a thoughtful, transparent manner with the knowledge of faculty, students and parents — not in secret, and not in a way that felt exceptional,” Sparks wrote. “I only wish I had used those exact words.”

The author didn’t directly respond to the allegations of racism in his apology on Monday but said his emails lacked “deliberation” and were sent at a time when he was “besieged by vociferous complaints” about Benjamin.

A federal judge last year determined a jury should decide whether Sparks defamed Benjamin by allegedly suggesting to other board members the former headmaster had Alzheimer’s and also whether Benjamin resigned or was pressured to quit. That same judge dismissed Benjamin’s claims that he was forced out due to his attempts to diversify the student population at Epiphany and that his Jewish background played a role in his lost employment, according to The Associated Press.

The case is expected to go to trial in August.

  • This article originally appeared on HuffPost.
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