More than one person has said to me today that their favorite part of the election so far is how budding first lady (and wannabe Bond Girl) Melania Trump stole exact passages for her speech last night at the opening of the GOP convention. And not just passages, but from current first lady Michelle Obama. And not just some Michelle Obama speech, but her own convention address from eight years ago. “Who expected that the star of the GOP convention would be Michelle Obama?” someone said.
Well, it keeps getting better, thanks to the internet. The meme #MelaniaTrumpFamousQuotes, which puts others’ words in Melania’s mouth, is trending more than Pokemon GO right now. “The first rule of fight club is: you don’t talk about fight club. — Melania Trump” and “All my life I had to fight, I had to fight my daddy, my uncles, but I be damned if I have to fight in my own house! — Melania Trump” and “And I say to you this: Fish don’t fry in the kitchen. Beans don’t burn on the grill. Took a whole lot of trying just to get up that hill. — Melania Trump” and my favorite, “My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die. — Melania Trump.”
What is yours? That you’ve seen or come up with? We need more entertainment round here. Or as Melania might say, “We need a little Christmas, right this very minute. Candles in the window, carols at the spinet.”
Jason Collins became the NBA’s first active openly gay player Sunday, signing a 10-day contract with the Brooklyn Nets, the Associated Press reported.
Collins will join the Nets for their game Sunday night in Los Angeles against the Lakers. The 35-year-old center revealed at the end of last season he is gay, but he was a free agent and had remained unsigned.
With a need for another big man, the Nets turned to the 7-foot Collins, who helped them reach two NBA Finals in the early 2000s.
“The decision to sign Jason was a basketball decision,” general manager Billy King said in a statement. “We needed to increase our depth inside, and with his experience and size, we felt he was the right choice for a 10-day contract.”
Collins has played 12 NBA seasons, including his first seven with the Nets, when they were in New Jersey and Jason Kidd was their point guard. Kidd is now the Nets’ coach and Collins has been a teammate of several other current Nets.
“Jason told us that his goal was to earn another contract with an NBA team. Today, I want to commend him on achieving his goal. I know everyone in the NBA family is excited for him and proud that our league fosters an inclusive and respectful environment,” Commissioner Adam Silver said.
The Nets worked out Collins during the All-Star break and met with him again Sunday, with his twin brother, Jarron, hinting that history would be made.
“Hope everyone is enjoying their Sunday. Today should be a pretty cool day!” Jarron Collins wrote on Twitter.
The news on Collins comes as Michael Sam, the SEC defensive player of the year from Missouri who recently revealed he is gay, is taking part in the NFL draft combine. Sam’s on-field workouts in Indianapolis are scheduled for Monday.
Jason Collins played 38 games last season with Boston and Washington and averaged 1.1 points and 1.6 rebounds in limited minutes. For his career, the 7-foot Collins averages 3.6 points and 3.8 rebounds.
His announcement last spring was followed by numerous NBA players insisting he would be welcomed in the locker room. Collins has played for five other teams and is well respected inside and outside the league — he attended the State of the Union as a guest of first lady Michelle Obama.
“I just know Jason as a person and as a player. That’s what I’m happy about. He has earned it. He’s a great guy. It’s good for the league. The important thing is to judge him as a person and a basketball player,” Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau said.
“I know people who have coached him, and I know how highly thought of he is.”
The Nets had an opening for a big man after trading Reggie Evans along with Jason Terry to Sacramento on Wednesday for guard Marcus Thornton. King said Thursday that Collins would be among the players they would look at, insisting they wouldn’t be concerned about any extra attention the signing of Collins would provide.
“We’re going to bring in a basketball player,” King said. “It’s not about marketing or anything like that.”
The Nets posted a photo on their Twitter account of Kidd watching Collins sign his contract, encouraging followers to retweet it to welcome Collins to Brooklyn.
Collins is tied for third in Nets history with 510 games played, and also ranks in their top 10 in minutes played, and offensive rebounds and total rebounds. A limited offensive player, the Nets hope he still provides a presence defensively and on the boards.
“I know Jason Collins is a competitor. One thing I know about him is he fouls very hard,” Miami’s Dwyane Wade said with a laugh. “He’s one of those tough veterans. I’m sure he’s happy to be back playing in the league. Welcome back.”
Marriage equality and other LGBT issues are part of the Democratic platform that passed Tuesday at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte. Same-sex relationships were also included in the keynote speeches delivered Tuesday evening.
Wednesday’s issue of USA Today featured a picture of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas President Omar Narvaez, Felix Gaytan and former Stonewall Dallas Vice President Jay Narey at the LGBT Caucus meeting as they listened to Wisconsin Senate candidate Tammy Baldwin. If elected in November, Congresswoman Baldwin will become the first openly gay U.S. senator.
Narvaez said he met first lady Michelle Obama today. He thanked her for supporting the LGBT community and the DREAMers (undocumented immigrants brought to this country as children).
“She looked me straight in the eyes and said she is committed to work until we get equality for both LGBT and ALL the DREAMers,” Narvaez wrote. “She gave me a hug. All I could say in her ear during the hug was ‘thank you.’”
Obama referenced same-sex marriage twice in her speech Tuesday night, and San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro referenced it once.
President Obama “wants everyone in this country to have that same opportunity, no matter who we are, or where we’re from, or what we look like, or who we love,” Michelle Obama said.
Comparing President Obama to his opponent, Castro said, “Mitt Romney says no when it comes to letting people love who they love and marry who they want to marry.”
For the second year in a row, First Lady Michelle Obama takes her “Let’s Move” initiative to the streets, and this time, it’s coming to Texas — along with some Top Chefs.
Top Chef: Texas is currently running on Bravo, which helps explains Big D for the location of the national tour stopping here on Friday. The aim of the program is to teach kids how to make healthy food choices.
Among the celebrichefs in attendance at DISD schools this Friday will be Tom Colicchio, all-stars winner Richard Blais, dreamboat Fabio Viviani and Jen Carroll.
Dallas ISD is actually a leader in healthy food options for its students, boasting the most “gold” schools of any district in the nation for the Healthier US School Challenge program.
Stonewall Democrats of Dallas will host its second annual watch party at the Brick tonight during President Barack Obama’s State of the Union Address.
The Washington Blade reports that two lesbians are among those who’ve been invited to sit in first lady Michelle Obama’s gallery during the address. They are Lorelei Kilker, an analytical chemist from Colorado who was involved in a landmark sex discrimination case against her employer; and Air Force Col. Ginger Wallace, who’s training to deploy to Afghanistan and is the first service member to have a same-sex partner participate in a pinning-on promotion ceremony.
Others who’ll be sitting in the first lady’s gallery include San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, who has served as grand marshal of the city’s gay Pride parade and who recently signed a pledge in support of same-sex marriage.
The Blade also takes a look at the question of whether Obama will endorse same-sex marriage — or otherwise mention LGBT issues — during his speech.
Stonewall’s watch party begins at 6:30 p.m. at the Brick, 2525 Wycliff, Suite 120.
Read the White House’s bios of Castro, Kilker and Wallace after the jump.
ANTI-BULLYING CONFERENCE | President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama sit with Brandon Greene of Burrilville, R.I., right, and Jacqui Knight of Moore, Okla., as they meet with students and parents from the Conference on Bullying Prevention in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington last March. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)
A year after a rash of teen suicides focused attention on the problem of anti-LGBT bullying, some experts say it’s true things have improved, but not nearly enough
Anti-LGBT bullying took the national stage last fall after the highly publicized suicides of several teens bullied for being or being perceived to be LGBT.
The relentless bullying, many believe, may have been one of the contributing factors in many of those youths’ decisions to attempt suicide, and their deaths led to a surge of anti-bullying awareness campaigns and media coverage.
But will LGBT students entering school this fall be any safer after a year of heightened awareness about the issue? Two LGBT leaders are doubtful, although they acknowledge some positive changes.
Eliza Byard, executive director of the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network, said, “Last fall, the nation as a whole woke up to the potential consequences of this problem.”
And this year, “more schools are aware of what they need to do, and there are more resources out there,” she said.
But while “we’ve made progress” in people’s understanding of anti-LGBT bullying and “ideas and policies are getting traction,” Byard said, there is still “a lot of work to be done.”
David McFarland, interim executive director/CEO of The Trevor Project, the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBT and questioning youth, said he too believes there is a long way yet to go.
“We’re not there yet because we’re continuing to see anti-LGBT rhetoric and movement across this country that has a negative effect on young people,” McFarland said. “There is greater awareness around this issue, but LGBT students still experience bullying and harassment at an alarming rate.”
Research has shown the negative effects of bullying. GLSEN’s 2009 National School Climate Survey found that nearly 9 out of 10 LGBT students experienced verbal or physical harassment at school in the previous year, which was related to increased depression and anxiety and decreased self-esteem.
And a study in the May 2011 Journal of School Health found that anti-LGBT bullying at school “is strongly linked” to negative mental health for its victims, including an increased frequency of suicide attempts and increased risk for engaging in behaviors that can lead to infection with STDs and HIV.
The increased risks exist not only while the victim is in adolescence, but also in young adulthood.
At the federal level
Federal actions taken over the last year to address anti-LGBT bullying include, most prominently, an anti-bullying conference hosted by the While House in March 2011, at which President Obama told attendees that bullying is “more likely to affect kids that are seen as different,” including those who are different because of sexual orientation.
The U.S. Department of Education has also issued a number of letters to educators, reminding them:
• that federal laws require schools to take action against bullying, including gender-based and sexual harassment of LGBT students.
• that schools receiving federal funds must provide equal access to school resources for all student groups, including gay-straight alliances, and that GSAs “can help make schools safe and affirming environments for everyone.”
• that effective state anti-bullying laws include ones that specify “actual or perceived characteristics of students who have historically been targets of bullying,” such as sexual orientation and gender identity.
In the states
On the state level, since last fall, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut and Rhode Island enacted anti-bullying legislation that explicitly prohibits bullying based on sexual orientation and gender identity, as recommended by the Department of Education, making a total of 14 states that do so.
The others include California, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Vermont and Washington.
An additional two, Massachusetts and Wisconsin, specify sexual orientation, but not gender identity.
North Dakota and Texas enacted anti-bullying laws in the last year, but those laws do not enumerate sexual orientation and gender identity.
And Byard said there has been “tremendous activity at district and local levels” across the country to address bullying.
McFarland, too, stressed the importance of local action.
“Schools and communities need to take concrete steps, creating safe spaces where youth can receive support from caring adults,” he said.
Both the Trevor Project and GLSEN are among the organizations that provide training to help them do so.
Byard said, however, that, “The biggest problem we have right now is that schools are in crisis because of the economy. We’ve got to make sure schools that want to do the right thing are not prevented because of a lack of resources.”
It may be tough going. The federal Fiscal Year 2011 budget drained more than $100 million from the two primary federal grant programs that address bullying. And state education budgets continue to face cuts.
McFarland noted that, in some districts, the problem may be attitudinal as well as budgetary, especially in states and school districts with “no promo homo” laws or policies preventing school-based instruction that could be interpreted to be positive about homosexuality.
Eight states — Alabama, Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and Utah — have such laws statewide, according to GLSEN.
But individual school districts in other states may have similar policies, as does the Anoka-Hennepin School District in Minnesota, part of which is in the congressional district of presidential candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn.
The National Center for Lesbian Rights and the Southern Poverty Law Center recently filed a lawsuit against the district, claiming the policies “exacerbated” anti-gay harassment. This caused some students “serious emotional harm, including anxiety, anger, and depression, which led some of them to consider or attempt suicide.”
In the nine months between November 2009 and July 2010, at least four LGBT students within the district died by suicide.
Federal anti-bullying legislation “would make an enormous difference,” said Byard.
Three pairs of bills in the U.S. House and Senate would address anti-LGBT bullying and harassment in schools and universities. But the bills seem unlikely to pass the current Republican-controlled House, despite having a handful of Republican co-sponsors.
Still, Byard and McFarland feel the efforts over the past year have had some positive effect.
“After last year, more doors are open,” Byard said. “People know this needs to be done.”
McFarland added, “For the first time, the challenges of LGBT youth are no longer invisible on a local, state, or national level.”
Last night, I posted a brief blog about Joel Burns being recognized for his anti-bullying efforts by Fort Worth Mayor Mike Moncrief, but I didn’t have many details. Now, here are some details for you.
Moncrief presented Burns with the 8th annual “Believing in Youth Award” Thursday night during the Believing in Youth Award Dinner, an event that benefited Santa Fe Youth Services. According to a press release from Moncrief’s office, the award “honors those who take personal responsibility for being a role model and building resiliency in our young people through formal and informal, intentional and unintentional efforts.”
Santa Fe Youth Services is a nonprofit agency that has provided services to youth and families in Tarrant County for more than 10 years.
Burns was chosen as the recipient in recognition of his efforts to combat bullying that gained national attention last October when he delivered an impromptu “It Gets Better” message to LGBT youth during a City Council meeting. Burns, in an emotional address that left many in the council chambers in tears, spoke of his own experience as a gay teen bullied by classmates and how he even contemplated suicide at one point, and how his life has gotten exponentially better in the years since.
A video of his speech went viral on YouTube and within days, the gay Fort Worth council member had been invited to speak on numerous TV shows, including The Today Show and Ellen. In December he went to Austin for a press conference announcing the introduction of anti-bullying bills in the Texas Legislature, and he returned to Austin in March for LGBT Lobby Day to call once again for the legislation to be passed.
Also in March, Burns was invited to attend an anti-bullying summit presented by President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama.
Rep. Jared Polis, left, and Sen. Al Franken today introduced the Student Non-Discrimination Act that would protect LGBT students from discrimination and harassment.
As President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama hosted a group of students, parents, teachers and other concerned citizens — including Fort Worth’s own Joel Burns — at the White House today, Openly gay U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., and Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., introduced identical bills, called the Student Non-Discrimination Act, in the House and the Senate that would protect students from discrimination and harassment based on “actual or percieved sexual orientation or gender identity.”
In an e-mail announcing the proposed legislation, Polis cited recent efforts by school officials in Flour Bluff High School, near Corpus Christi, to prevent a gay-straight alliance from meeting on school grounds.
“It’s bad enough when a school turns a blind eye to bullying. But when a school district in Texas moved to ban all extracurricular clubs in order to avoid having to approve a Gay-Straight Alliance, it really crossed the line,” Polis said in the e-mail. “The school itself became the bully.”
He added, “Our message is clear: Pick on somebody your own size.”
Polis acknowledged that “the odds of this bill passing this session are uncertain” because some Republicans, “regardless of their personal beliefs, are reluctant to vote for LGBT-friendly legislation.
“But, even though the odds are against me, I can’t stay silent in the face of bullying — especially when the people who are supposed to protect students from bullying have become the bullies themselves,” Polis said, encouraging individuals to become “citizen sponsors” by adding their name as a supporter here.
The ACLU has quickly come out in support of the legislation, with ACLU legislative representative Ian Thompson saying that the legislation could have “a profound impact in improving the lives of LGBT students in our schools.”
Thompson pointed to the numerous LGBT teens who committed suicde after being bullied relentlessly in the late summer and fall of 2010 as evidence of the need for the legislation. Seth Walsh, 13, was one of those teens, and his mother, Wendy Walsh, is an ACLU client. She, too, weigh in today on the need for the SNDA.
“I can’t bring my son back. But schools can make a difference today by taking bullying seriously when students and parents tell them about it. It’s time for change. We have to create better schools for everyone,” said Wendy Walsh, who was also among those attending the White House Conference on Bullying.
In a written statement released after the SNDA was introduced, ACLU officials pointed out that while federal laws currently protect students on the basis of their race, color, sex, religion, disability or national origin, no federal statute explicitly protects students on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.
“The SNDA, like Title IX, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the various disability civil rights statutes, is not simply legislation that would remedy discrimination after it occurs, but instead would also have the important impact of preventing discrimination from occurring,” the ACLU statement said.
To read the ACLU’s statement in support of the Student Non-Discrimination Act, go here. To see video of Wendy Walsh telling her son’s story, go here.