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 theÂ RepublicansÂ chose not to.
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:Â Tyler Clementi,Â Billy Lucas,Â Seth Walsh,Â Asher Brown, to name a few.Â
September of course is the heightÂ of the back-to school season, and back-to-school for too many LGBTQ students can mean back-to-being-bullied.Â
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 deliveredÂ a powerful address to his colleaguesÂ about anti-LGBT bullying and discrimination. That’s him above, standing next to a photo ofÂ Seth Walsh, a gay teen, one of the too many who in September of 2010 succumbed to suicide after relentless bullying.Â
â€œBy seventh grade, taunts and verbal abuse were a constant part of Sethâ€™s day,â€ Franken told his fellow Senators. â€œStudents called him faggot and queer. He was afraid to use the restroom or to be in the boysâ€™ locker room before gym class.â€Â
â€œAnd in September of 2010, Seth hanged himself from a tree in his familyâ€™s backyard,â€ Franken announced. â€œHe was 13. Seth left a note expressing his love for family and friends but also his anger at the school.â€
â€œThis amendment would simply provide LGBT kids with the same legal remedies available to other kids under our federal civil rights laws,â€ Franken said.
â€œIf a black child was referred to by a racial slur at school, would we say kids will be kids?â€ Sen. Franken asked his colleagues yesterday. â€œIf 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 didnâ€™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.â€
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 RepublicansÂ â€“ and only RepublicansÂ â€“ all voted to let LGBTQ kids continue to be bullied and discriminatedÂ 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 BehindÂ â€“ 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,Â the Student Nondiscrimination Act, claiming it would lead toÂ â€œcostly lawsuits.â€
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 bulliedÂ â€“ 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 bullyingÂ â€“ 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 seeÂ the full listÂ at Congress.gov.
You can and should contact your U.S. Senator to let them know how you feel about theirÂ 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
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Shady U.S. Department Trump official used his position to get his son-in-law an EPA job
An inspector general report published Friday found that Assistant Interior Secretary Douglas Domenech at the U.S. Department of the Interior used his position to help his son-in-law Eric Frandy get a job at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
According to the report, Domenech reached out to a senior EPA official in person and via email in 2017 to persuade them to hire Frandy. He also encouraged the official to use another family member’s wedding-related business.
When asked about his pressuring the official to hire his son-in-law, Domenech admitted he was “trying to influence the process to move along.”
What’s troubling is that Domenech didn’t technically break the law because the law around this states you can’t use your political influence to benefit yourself, your wife, child or business… but shilling for in-laws is totally okay.
Regardless, Domenech will be forced to undergo ethics training. But House Natural Resources Committee Chairman, Arizona Democrat Raul Grijalva, believes the training will be useless because Domenech already received two rounds of ethics training when first joining the Trump administration.
Instead, Grijalva wants Interior Secretary David Bernhardt to fire Domenech. “Firing Mr. Domenech is the only serious course of action at this point,” another round of ethics training is clearly just a waste of time, since it hasn’t sunk in by now,” Grijalva said.
This is just the Domenech’s second ethical violation that we know about so far.
“Investigators in December found that he broke federal ethics rules by twice meeting with his former employer, a conservative Texas-based policy group, to discuss legal disputes between the group and the agency in early 2017,” the Star Tribune reports.
Trump threatens to use “vicious dogs” and “ominous weapons” on police brutality protestors
A day after President Donald Trump urged people to shoot looters associated with the nationwide protests against police brutality, he threatened racial justice protestors in Washington D.C. with “the most vicious dogs, and most ominous weapons” should they dare try to breach the White House fence.
In a series of tweets published in the early morning hours of May 30, Trump wrote:
The professionally managed so-called “protesters” at the White House had little to do with the memory of George Floyd. They were just there to cause trouble. The @SecretService handled them easily. Tonight, I understand, is MAGA NIGHT AT THE WHITE HOUSE???
Great job last night at the White House by the U.S. @SecretService. They were not only totally professional, but very cool. I was inside, watched every move, and couldn’t have felt more safe. They let the “protesters” scream & rant as much as they wanted, but whenever someone….
….got too frisky or out of line, they would quickly come down on them, hard – didn’t know what hit them. The front line was replaced with fresh agents, like magic. Big crowd, professionally organized, but nobody came close to breaching the fence. If they had they would….
….have been greeted with the most vicious dogs, and most ominous weapons, I have ever seen. That’s when people would have been really badly hurt, at least. Many Secret Service agents just waiting for action. “We put the young ones on the front line, sir, they love it, and….
….good practice.” As you saw last night, they were very cool & very professional. Never let it get out of hand. Thank you! On the bad side, the D.C. Mayor, @MurielBowser, who is always looking for money & help, wouldn’t let the D.C. Police get involved. “Not their job.” Nice!
The tweets are unsurprising considering Trump’s love of “strongman” leaders like Russian President Vladimir Putin, Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte, and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. In 2017, Trump has long stoked racial tensions by referring to white supremacists and neo-Nazis as “very fine people,” calling former NFL-player and police brutality protestor Colin Kaepernick a “son of a bitch,” and also encouraged police to treat criminal suspects roughly.
To his meager credit, “Trump has ordered the FBI and Justice Department to expedite an investigation into Floyd’s death in addition to the local investigation into the incident,” according to The Hill. But the fact that he’s gleefully talking about attacking demonstrators is disquieting to say the least.
Anti-gay bigot Lou Sheldon, founder of Traditional Values Coalition, dead at 85
Reverend Lou Sheldon, founder of the Traditional Values Coalition (TVC), a conservative Christian anti-LGBTQ hate group that lasted from 1984 to 2018, died this week at age 85. Good riddance.
His cause of death hasn’t been revealed.
Sheldon served as the California executive director of Anita Bryant’s 1977 Save Our Children (SOC) campaign, the first-known anti-gay political organization. SOC successfully opposed municipal ordinances protecting gay, lesbian and bisexual citizens from discrimination in cities across America.
The SOC did this largely by painting gay people as godless sluts who wanted to cross-dress and rape children. The group’s pubic face, singer Anita Bryant, compared LGB people as prostitutes, thieves, murderers, and child molesters.
Gay activists at the time showed how the SOC’s rhetoric was similar to Nazis during the Holocaust — once, members of the Ku Klux Klan showed up at a public event to protect Bryant. The anti-gay stigma being voiced by supporters of the group in print, TV and radio contributed to anti-LGBTQ sentiment, increased harassment and suicides of queer people.
As for the TVC, it opposed gay-straight alliances in schools; disseminated anti-gay “educational” videos to schools, churches and community groups across America; was pro-conversion therapy (the debunked psychological torture that seeks to change a queer person’s sexual orientation or gender identity); pro-death penalty; anti-immigrant; anti-pornography; anti-abortion; pro-military; anti-taxes; anti-drug; and in support of Christians converting all non-Christians.
Here’s just a taste of Sheldon’s anti-LGBTQ quotes, courtesy of the Southern Poverty Law Center:
- “The effort to push adult/child sex … is part of the overall homosexual movement.”
- “As homosexuals continue to make inroads into public schools, more children will be molested and indoctrinated into the world of homosexuality. Many of them will die in that world.”
- “Homosexuality is a behavior, not a fixed identity. It is similar to smoking or drug use, not an immutable characteristic like race or ethnicity. There are no ‘former’ Blacks, but there are ex-homosexuals. The existence of ex-homosexuals is clear evidence that homosexuality is behavior-based, not an unchangeable characteristic.”
- “Americans should understand that their attitudes about homosexuality have been deliberately and deceitfully changed by a masterful propaganda/marketing campaign that rivals that of Adolph [sic] Hitler.”
He also helped lobby for a congressional hearing to support Senator Jesse Helms’ proposal to deny federal funds to public schools “encouraging or supporting homosexuality.” At the hearing, a speaker said gay activists use federal AIDS funds to host orgies.
When Congress introduced the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) in 2013, the TVC called transgender people “psychologically unhealthy” and accused them of wanting to introduce “gender confusion” into public schools.
In June 2014, the TVC released a flier comparing gay and lesbian people to those who have sexual fetishes for amputees and eating feces. Physical disgust, revulsion, and demonizing tactics like this were often used by the TVC and other anti-LGBTQ activists to appeal to fear instead of logic.
The TVC was also intensely Islamophobic, contributing to anti-Muslim sentiment following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
The only upside to his existence is that it helped unite LGBTQ people in cities across America and gave the press a reason to focus on the day-to-day discrimination and violence queer people experience.
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