Wendy Walsh: Seth’s mother says stop the bullying now

I have two sons. I like to say I inherited them when their mother and I began our relationship.

They make me crazy sometimes, like when I have to tell them 12 times to pick up their dirty socks off the floor, or not to leave their empty water bottles or candy wrappers on the couch.

They make me crazy sometimes. But I love them more than life — all the time. Even when they make me crazy.

In one week and one day, I will get to celebrate my 10th Christmas with my sons. I am willing to bet I am looking forward to Christmas morning as much as — maybe even more than — they are. The looks on their faces when they see the gifts from Santa, when they open those brightly-wrapped packages under the tree — that joy is worth all the crazy times. It’s worth the world.

In one week and one day I get to celebrate Christmas morning with my sons. Wendy Walsh will never have that chance again. Her son, Seth, was one of the several LGBT teens who committed suicide this fall after facing years of bullying. I can’t even begin to imagine what she must be feeling right now. I think I might just close myself off in my house and never want to see anyone else again.

But Wendy Walsh isn’t doing that. She is putting her grief and her pain and, yes, her anger to work, joining with the ACLU to call on all schools everywhere to protect all children from the kind of bullying and harassment that left her son feeling he had no way of escape except dying, and to call on the federal government to enact legislation to fight bullying.

And while the rest of us can never truly understand the depth of Wendy Walsh’s grief, her loss, we need to all understand that Seth Walsh was our son, too, that Wendy Walsh’s loss was our loss, and that her grief should be our grief. And we should all fight just as hard and she is to make sure that no other children, anywhere, ever feel such despair that suicide seems their only option.

If we don’t do something to save our children, who will?

—  admin

New Legislation Proposes Teaching of LGBT History in California

In October, I posted about a London school which claims to have virtually eradicated anti-gay bullying. How? By teaching kids about gay history and the contributions of well-known LGBT people to society.

Leno Yesterday, California State Senator Mark Leno introduced the FAIR Education act, a piece of legislation that would do require schools to adopt similar principles to those that appear to have worked wonders at London's Stoke Newington School.

According to Equality California, "The Fair, Accurate, Inclusive and Respectful (FAIR) Education Act would amend the Education Code to include social sciences instruction on the contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. This bill would also prohibit discriminatory instruction and discriminatory materials from being adopted by the State Board of Education."

Said Leno in a statement: "Most textbooks don't include any historical information about the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) movement, which has great significance to both California and U.S. history. Our collective silence on this issue perpetuates negative stereotypes of LGBT people and leads to increased bullying of young people." 

Equality California is asking you to contact lawmakers and express your support for the FAIR act. You can find out how to do so here.


Towleroad News #gay

—  admin

Wash. Post on new DADT legislation: ‘Friday’s bill is a Hail Mary’

It can be done, but won’t be easy:

Initiated by Sens. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) a day after supporters of repeal saw their efforts defeated for the second time this year, the new bill uses the same language that had been tucked into the defense authorization bill.

The defense bill failed in a procedural vote on Thursday, which frustrated supporters who said the defeat was the result of bad timing rather than a lack of votes. They sharply criticized Majority Leader Sen. Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) – who is racing through a packed legislative agenda as the congressional clock winds down – for moving prematurely. A similar attempt failed in September.

Friday’s bill is a Hail Mary. Several Democratic senators are cosponsoring the new measure, and while Sens. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) – key potential GOP votes – remain supportive of ending the ban, they are not expected to cosponsor it, according to Senate aides. The aides asked their names be withheld because they are not authorized to speak publicly on the issue.

It is a “Hail Mary.” But, sometimes Hail Mary passes actually work (Sports reference here: I remember watching Doug Flutie’s famous “Hail Mary” pass back in November of 1984.)

For success, everything has to go like clockwork. There can be no protracted discussion about amendments or time for debate. It’s got to be simple: The sponsors file cloture and there’s a vote. Collins and her colleagues can’t complain and whine when Democrats “fill the amendment tree.” They’ve got to agree to a seamless process in order to get an up-or-down vote in the Senate.

Collins has to bring Brown and Murkowski along. Those GOPers have to withstand the pressure from their leader, Mitch McConnell, and the volatile John McCain. The Republicans are in no mood to give Obama a win here.

If you start hearing that one of the GOP Senators needs time to offer amendments or isn’t happy with the process or needs to wail til something else passes on the Senate floor, this new bill won’t move. Since we’re using sports metaphors, Collins is not calling the plays. We’re in overtime.




AMERICAblog Gay

—  admin

John Cornyn provides a copy of the GOP letter that threatens to doom DADT repeal

Via our old pal John Cornyn (don’t ever say he’s totally worthless), here’s a copy of the aforementioned Senate GOP letter that says Republicans won’t agree to do anything in the lame duck session until Democrats have done everything Republicans want to do. The letter, which Cornyn says was delivered to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid this morning, has 42 signatures, which represents enough votes to block consideration of any legislation Democrats put forward, including a repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell.”

—  John Wright

Illinois House just passed civil unions legislation

The Illinois House of Representatives, by a vote of 61 – 52, just passed an amendment to SB 1716, titled the Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act. The bill will legalize same-sex civil unions in the state.

After the legislation passes in the Senate (and it should), the newly reelected Governor, Pat Quinn, will sign the bill (Opposition to civil unions is one reason the Republican, Bill Brady, lost in November.) Governor Quinn actually showed up at the debate and was recognized.

Background via ChicagoPride.com:

SB 1716, the Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act needs 60 votes to pashttp://www.blogger.com/post-create.g?blogID=281630668487321358#s in the House. Supporters believe they have the necessary votes to pass the bill out of the House and on to the Senate, where quick passage is expected.

Tuesday afternoon, an Illinois Senate committee advanced its version of the civil unions bill by a 6-2 margin. The upper chamber on the Senate would have to approve the legislation if it clears the House.

The Senate should pass the legislation, possibly as soon as tomorrow.

Congrats, Illinois. You’re creating rights for people.




AMERICAblog Gay

—  admin

Anti-bullying bill leaves out trans protections

Rep. Mark Strama, who’s considered an LGBT ally, may not realize how big a mistake he’s making by omitting gender identity/expression from his bullying bill.

Later today the Dallas ISD’s board of trustees will vote on a bullying policy that, if approved, would make the district the first in the state to specifically outlaw bullying based on actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity/expression.

Obviously one of the keys here is gender identity/expression, which covers not only students who are transgender, but also students who are perceived by classmates as not meeting gender stereotypes. Clearly, this is a major factor behind bullying — students who are made fun of, for example, for being “sissies” or “tomboys.”

So why, then, would a state representative who is considered an LGBT ally file an anti-bullying bill that includes sexual orientation but NOT gender identity/expression?

Rep. Mark Strama, D-Austin, last week filed HB 224, this session’s version of the comprehensive anti-bullying legislation that Strama authored in 2009. But for some reason, and we still aren’t exactly sure why, Strama has left out gender identity/expression this time. The 2009 version of Strama’s bill, HB 1323, which almost made it to the House floor, included both sexual orientation and gender identity/expression. However, this year’s version includes only sexual orientation.

We contacted Strama’s office on Wednesday, but we still haven’t heard back. Earlier today we spoke with Chuck Smith, deputy director of Equality Texas, who assured us he’s well aware of the omission. Smith said “gender identity/expression” was in every version of Strama’s bill  that Equality Texas reviewed, but suddenly disappeared from the version that was filed.

Smith said he was in the office this afternoon despite the fact that he’s supposed to be on vacation — for a meeting aimed at getting a trans-inclusive version of Strama’s bill filed in the Senate. Smith said Strama’s bill can’t be amended until it goes to committee, which might not be until March, and Strama isn’t willing to pull the bill and re-file a trans-inclusive version.

“We’re aware of it, we’re disappointed in it and we’re trying to fix it by having a Senate version of the bill that would be what we want it to be,” Smith said. “Our policy is that we don’t support bills that don’t include both sexual orientation and gender identity/expression. We’ve been working on this since HB 224 got filed on Nov. 9 and we realized that it wasn’t in there anymore.”

—  John Wright

Rep. Marc Veasey again files bill seeking study of hate crimes act but says it’s ‘not going anywhere’

For the third consecutive legislative session, State Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, filed legislation last week calling for a study on the implementation of Texas’ hate crimes statute.

Veasey wants to know why, despite thousands of hate crimes reported to law enforcement since the statute was passed in 2001, only about a dozen cases have been prosecuted in court as hate crimes. If you’ll remember, the statute covers “sexual preference” but not gender identity.

In an interview the other day with KXAN (video above), Veasey cited homophobia as one of the reasons why the statute isn’t being used:

While Veasey understands that it’s hard to prosecute hate crimes he believes there’s another, underlying reason why prosecutors are rarely using the law.

“You have some people on the right that have said that it is a bill that protects gays and so they are against it for that reason,” Veasey said.

And Veasey told The Star-Telegram that the outcome of this year’s elections means the bill is likely doomed again in next year’s session, which begins in January.

“I’m going to try it, but quite frankly it’s not going anywhere,” Veasey said. “A lot of these folks that got elected were elected on opposition to the president and probably feel that being for anything pro-civil rights would hurt them in their political careers.”

Wait a second, is Veasey suggesting they’re going to completely ignore this memo?

—  John Wright

Roberto Alonzo files insurance nondiscrimination measure; no anti-gay legislation reported yet

Rep. Roberto Alonzo

State Rep. Roberto Alonzo, D-Dallas, has filed one of the earliest pro-equality bills of the 2011 legislative session — and he didn’t even wait outside the clerk’s office for two days to do it.

Alonzo’s HB208, filed Monday, would add sexual orientation and gender identity/expression to the nondiscrimination provisions of the Texas Insurance Code, according to Equality Texas.

Chuck Smith, deputy director of Equality Texas, said Wednesday morning that while there’s been a flood of legislation related to immigration and abortion, no anti-gay bills have been logged since the pre-filing period began Monday.

Some feel there is a danger of anti-gay attacks in the biennial session that begins in January, now that Republicans have a nearly two-thirds majority in the House, but Smith reiterated what he told us last week.

“It is untrue to assume that all Republicans are wingnut homophobes,” Smith said. “Some of them are, but I don’t know that there is a will certainly at the leadership level to gay-bash. I think their own polling numbers probably tell them what we see as well, which is that it doesn’t necessarily play well.”

—  John Wright

Legislation Introduced to Defund Abstinence-Only Sex Education

Yesterday, Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA) introduced the Repealing Ineffective and Incomplete Abstinence-Only Program Funding Act (the  Act), which would end abstinence-only-until-marriage programs once and for all.  HRC has long opposed federal funding for abstinence-only programs because they exclude, or even denigrate, LGBT students.  These programs are prohibited by law from discussing contraceptive use and exclude, by design, LGBT youth because marriage is unavailable to LGBT individuals in most parts of the country.

Since 1996, Congress has spent almost .5 billion on abstinence-only programs, despite a wealth of evidence that they are ineffective.  In fact, no study in a professional peer-reviewed journal has found abstinence-only programs to be broadly effective.  While our Congress searches to ensure that every tax dollar is spent in an effective manner, the Act furthers this pursuit by defunding a program that has not been proven effective.

The Act would strip Title V from the Social Security Act, and rescind million that has been appropriated to abstinence-only programs.  In addition, it would provide for 5 million in funds for the Personal Responsibility Education Program (PREP), which provides for comprehensive, evidence-based efforts to prevent teen pregnancy and reduce sexually-transmitted infections.  Currently, PREP is funded at million, so the Act would increase this funding by million.

Our nation’s youth deserve the facts about how to protect themselves from sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.   It is time for Congress to ensure that our students are no longer subjugated to ineffective abstinence-only programs.  HRC thanks Senator Lautenberg and Representative Lee for their continued support of comprehensive and medically accurate sex education.


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

—  John Wright

Comprehensive LGBT-inclusive immigration legislation to be introduced this week

How about some good — or at least hopeful — news for binational couples… (The Advocate):

Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey is expected to introduce comprehensive immigration legislation before the Senate adjourns this week for the midterm recess, according to Politico, and a source tells The Advocate that the legislation will be LGBT-inclusive.

“We fully expect that the Menendez comprehensive immigration reform bill will be inclusive of the Uniting American Families Act,” said Steve Ralls, director of communications for the pro-LGBT Immigration Equality. UAFA would allow American citizens and permanent residents to sponsor their same-sex partners for residency. “We have been in constant communication with Senator Menendez’s staff to ensure that the legislation will include lesbian and gay families,” Ralls added.

Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  John Wright