Discrimination and bullying are emotionally and physically harmful, and can lead to death. The U.S. Senate today had a chance to literally save lives of LGBT students, and almost all of the Republicans chose not to.
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In September of 2010, the nation was stunned by what the media called a "rash" of LGBTQ student suicides resulting from bullying. At the time, the mainstream media reported there had been five bullying-related LGBT teen suicides, but NCRM counted at least ten that month. Some of the names you probably remember: Tyler Clementi, Billy Lucas, Seth Walsh, Asher Brown, to name a few.
September of course is the height of the back-to school season, and back-to-school for too many LGBTQ students can mean back-to-being-bullied.
Since 2010 the nation in many respects has changed dramatically. LGBT people are, overall, far more accepted. Gay people can serve openly in the military, marry, and generally live a life somewhat reduced of discrimination and bullying.
Kids, however, still have far less protections than adults, and with social media and constant access to the Internet, the bullying can be, literally, 24/7. For them, in many cases, it hasn't gotten better.
That's why LGBTQ students need protection from discrimination and bullying.
Al Franken, a Democratic US Senator from Minnesota, yesterday delivered a powerful address to his colleagues about anti-LGBT bullying and discrimination. That's him above, standing next to a photo of Seth Walsh, a gay teen, one of the too many who in September of 2010 succumbed to suicide after relentless bullying.
“By seventh grade, taunts and verbal abuse were a constant part of Seth’s day,” Franken told his fellow Senators. “Students called him faggot and queer. He was afraid to use the restroom or to be in the boys’ locker room before gym class.”
“And in September of 2010, Seth hanged himself from a tree in his family’s backyard,” Franken announced. “He was 13. Seth left a note expressing his love for family and friends but also his anger at the school.”
“This amendment would simply provide LGBT kids with the same legal remedies available to other kids under our federal civil rights laws,” Franken said.
“If a black child was referred to by a racial slur at school, would we say kids will be kids?” Sen. Franken asked his colleagues yesterday. “If a Jewish student got beat up because he wore a yarmulke to school, would we wave it off and say boys will be boys? If a shop teacher told a female student she didn’t belong in his class, would we be fine if the school just looked the other way? No, we would not. In fact, there are federal civil rights laws that are specifically designed to stop this kind of conduct.”
Sen. Franken offered his colleagues an opportunity today to help reduce bullying against LGBTQ youth in public schools, by voting for a bill to "end discrimination based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity in public schools."
They said, in response to helping save lives of LGBTQ students, "no."
Literally, 45 Republicans – and only Republicans – all voted to let LGBTQ kids continue to be bullied and discriminated against in our nation's school. Six Republican Senators did cross the aisle to vote for Sen. Franken's legislation, an amendment attached to a bill updating No Child Left Behind – an appropriate gesture, in fact, but eight more Republicans were needed to bring to vote to 60 "yeas."
The Washington Post credits Tennessee Republican Senator Lamar Alexander with leading the charge against Sen. Franken's SENDA legislation, the Student Nondiscrimination Act, claiming it would lead to “costly lawsuits.”
Apparently, fear of possible lawsuits outweighs Senator Alexander's concern about the actual emotional and physical harm being visited upon LGBTQ youth.
Here's the list of all U.S. Senators who this afternoon voted to allow our nation's LGBTQ youth to continue to be bullied – these are the NAY's. You'll notice that each NAY is from a Republican Senator, headed by Sen. Alexander:
Here's the list of all the US Senators who voted to help protect LGBTQ youth from bullying – these are the YEAs:
Not voting were U.S. Republican Senators and 2016 presidential candidates Lindsey Graham and Marco Rubio. Also not voting was U.S. Democratic Senator Bill Nelson, who has been out after undergoing cancer surgery Monday.
You can also see the full list at Congress.gov.
You can and should contact your U.S. Senator to let them know how you feel about their vote. If they voted yes, thank them and urge them to vote yes again. If they voted no, please explain to them why their vote literally is putting children in harm's way.
You can also tweet your Senators, or look them up on Facebook.
Image: Screenshot via UpTakeVideo/YouTube