Polis, Franken tell bullies to ‘pick on someone your own size’ as they introduce SNDA

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.

—  admin

Burns to attend White House anti-bullying summit

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama will host an anti-bullying conference at the White House on Thursday, March 10. City councilman Joel Burns will attend.

Students, parents and teachers will discuss how to stop bullying with the president and first lady. They issued an invitation on facebook to join the conversation about stopping bullying at StopBullying.gov.

The president and first lady will open the meeting in the East Room of the White House. Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will participate in the afternoon.

Topics listed for discussion in smaller groups include in-school policies, in-school programs, community-based programs, cyber bullying and campus-based programs.

StopBullying.gov confronts the issue of bullying against the LGBT community squarely addressing the issue on the site’s front page and linking to a section of resources that begins with a statement of rights.

A 2009 survey of 7,000 LGBT youth found that:

  • Eight in 10 LGBT students had been verbally harassed at school
  • Four in 10 had been physically harassed at school
  • Six in 10 felt unsafe at school
  • One in five had been the victim of a physical assault at school

 

—  David Taffet

What’s Brewing: Daniel Hernandez, Fort Worth Episcopal diocese; marriage battles intensify

1. In a victory for LGBT-affirming Episcopalians, a conservative Fort Worth group that left the church over its acceptance of gays has been ordered to surrender the property it tried to steal from the six-county diocese. A state district judge on Friday ordered the group to turn over the property — which includes 55 parishes and missions as well as several schools — within 60 days. The group says it plans to appeal the decision, but hopefully this ruling will mean schools like St. Vincent’s can no longer discriminate against 4-year-olds like Olivia Harrison (above) who happen to have lesbian parents.

2. Daniel Hernandez Jr., the gay intern credited with saving the life of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, will sit next to first lady Michelle Obama during Tuesday’s State of the Union address. Tuesday also happens to be Hernandez’s 21st birthday.

3. Battles over same-sex marriage are intensifying in Maryland, Wyoming and Iowa.

—  John Wright

Starvoice • 01.14.11

By Jack Ferti

CELEBRITY BIRTHDAYmichelle_obama

Michelle Obama turns 47 on Monday. Face it, we love the First Lady for adding some major fabulosity to the White House. She knows how to work a gown and a hairdo like no other first lady in a long time. Of course, we get behind what she’s doing for the country, too, taking on childhood obesity and support of military families. She just looks great doing it.

……………………….

THIS WEEK

Mercury lining up with Pluto in Capricorn helps us to focus our minds, although it can feed obsession over details and plans. Be mindful of where you place your thoughts and prioritize with productivity.

……………………….

CAPRICORN Dec 21-Jan 19
You were made to overcome hard times. Even when you feel old and worn out, those are signs of your work and accomplishments. Don’t forget to rest and charge your batteries.

AQUARIUS Jan 20-Feb 18
Your darkest fears and nightmares are keys to powerful revelations. Face down your demons. Filthy gossip is the best kind, but it’s a terrible distraction from necessary work.

PISCES Feb 19-Mar 19
The future looks bleak, but your imagination will find ways to make it through. Ignore fair-weather friends and party queens. Talk with those you can count on through the toughest times.

ARIES Mar 20-Apr 19
Figure out how to reach your goals in life, no matter how long it takes. You should have a major career peak in about seven years. The better it’s planned, the higher it will be.

TAURUS Apr 20-May 20
Push your mind and imagination to their limits. Don’t be scared of big arguments or grand ideas or even a bit of controversy. Getting a little out of your comfort zone will be good for you.

GEMINI May 21-Jun 20
Some of your darkest feelings come up like a geyser. Erotic passion and secret fears are at the top of the list. Have a close friend handy who can be trusted with your nastiest intimate secrets.

CANCER Jun 21-Jul 22
It may feel like an argument with your partner could kill your relationship, but not airing those issues is worse. If single, being honest will scare away all but those who truly deserve you.

LEO Jul 23-Aug 22
Every relationship takes work. Take up the tough issues now while it’s a little easier. You’ll be surprised at what problems can be resolved in the bedroom. It will at least help.

VIRGO Aug 23-Sep 22
Honing your skills is fine, but don’t get worked up over something that’s supposed to be relaxing and fun. Even if you’re looking to go pro remember, it’s an entertainment, not an obsession.

LIBRA Sep 23-Oct 22
You can unlock family secrets, but are you sure you want to know? Let sleeping dogs lie. If you find out you will learn why it’s a secret and why you must guard it just as carefully.

SCORPIO Oct 23-Nov 21
You can be trusted to keep a secret, and your friends see you as a father-confessor. Keeping their secrets and offering counsel may be an honor or a burden. It’s not obligatory.

SAGITTARIUS Nov 22-Dec 20
As bleak as your financial situation looks, there are answers. Figure them out, even if they seem out of reach. It will probably take a lot of time and effort, but don’t get discouraged. You can do it.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 14, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

‘Women in Media’ graphic novel features Ellen

Bluewater Productions, the same publisher that brought you the Lady Gaga comic, now offers its new graphic novel Female Force: Women in Media available tomorrow in stores. It’s more a compilation of previous comic book editions of biographies on Oprah, Barbara Walters, Meredith Viera and, of course, Ellen.

Not digging the cover all that much. With creepy smiles and heads floating in the clouds, it looks more like a memorial of female TV hosts gone to the great beyond. Just sayin’.

Here’s the word from Bluewater about the new release:

“The collected illustrated life stories of these media power players are together for the first time in this special collectors graphic novel. The ‘Female Force’ series has received international attention from The View, CNN, Vogue Magazine, People Magazine, Chicago Tribune, USA Today and thousands of other media outlets.

“Female Force offers a broad examination of strong and influential women who are shaping modern history and culture. In past issues, the monthly series has featured Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton, Sonia Sotomayor, Stephenie Meyer, JK Rowling, Margaret Thatcher and others.”

You may want to hold your breath for their upcoming releases. A biography on Betty White is slated for a December release as is Female Force: Sarah Palin, The Sequel. Hopefully, just in time for Christmas!

—  Rich Lopez

WATCH: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton records ‘It Gets Better’ video message

Most of the celebrities joining the “It Gets Better” campaign and posting their videos online are openly LGBT people. But now, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has added her voice to the call for LGBT young people contemplating suicide to hang on because brighter days are ahead.

Here’s Secretary Clinton’s video, “Tomorrow Will Be Better.” Now I wonder when we will see a video from President Barack Obama, or perhaps from First Lady Michelle Obama? The president is our “fierce advocate,” after all.

—  admin

An inconvenient woman

Rivers leaves no turn unstoned in frank, funny but standard-issue doc

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES | Life+Style Editor jones@dallasvoice.com

JOAN DARK | Rivers does wrestle with demons; she just turns them into jokes in her act.

3 out of 5 Stars
JOAN RIVERS: A PIECE OF WORK
Joan Rivers. Rated R. 90 mins. Opens today at the
Magnolia Theater and the
Angelika Film Center Plano.

Joan Rivers is both an enigma and exactly what she seems: A foul-mouthed comedian who has made a career pushing buttons and causing controversy without consideration for decorum. But then again, what drives her to “be that guy”? Is there something deeper, other than the quest for immortality and applause and approval?

We never quite learn the answer to that in Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work, a documentary culled from following Rivers around for a year or so around the time she won Celebrity Apprentice. Sure, we learn of the pain of her rift with Johnny Carson and the suicide of her husband and her fragile ego and her feelings about never being a critics’ darling.

But how did she make the leap to her brand of truth-telling? Does she have limits? Like getting to the center of a Tootsie Pop, we may never know.

What we do know from the documentary, though, can be fabulously entertaining. Rivers is upfront about her addiction to plastic surgery (although she avoids talking about her now-catlike appearance); she walks us through her joke file (and shares crass ones about Michelle Obama and Nazis); she tells us what current comedians she considers “brilliant” (Maher, Shandling, Tomlin); explains why she loves anal; and how she gives Kathy competition as champion of the gays. (“What’s the gay community like here?” she asks a cabbie in rural Wisconsin. “I don’t know,” responds her driver suspiciously. “Ask your wife’s brother,” she snaps back.)

There’s also the curiosity of seeing classic video of Rivers doing standup 40 years ago … and realizing that what was considered racy then seems Disney Channel tame by today’s standards.

Yet Joan remains endlessly fascinating. She’s a money, fame and attention whore who shouts down hecklers and takes no prisoners. “Can we talk?” she used to ask rhetorically.

I don’t know about “we.” But can she ever.

This article appeared in the National Pride edition in the Dallas Voice print edition June 18, 2010

—  Dallasvoice