May 21, 2010 at 6:24 pm EST | by Chris Johnson
Franken introduces bill to help LGBT students

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) on Thursday introduced legislation in the Senate aimed at protecting LGBT students throughout the country from facing discrimination in schools.

The bill, known as the Student Non-Discrimination Act, would prohibit schools from discriminating against LGBT students or ignoring harassing behavior against them. Potential penalties for discrimination could include a loss of federal funding or a legal cause of action for victims.

In a statement, Franken told the Blade the legislation is necessary because “kids need to feel safe in their schools in order to learn.”

“Our nation’s civil rights laws protect our children from bullying due to race, sex, religion, disability and national origin,” Franken said. “My proposal corrects a glaring injustice and extends these protections to our gay and lesbian students who need them just as badly.”

Eliza Byard, executive director of the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, praised Franken for introducing the bill in a statement Thursday and said the legislation is needed to ensure LGBT students “can learn without the fear of being discriminated against simply for who they are.”

“SNDA will send a clear message to schools that they must address the hostile environment many LGBT students face in schools,” she said.

In the House, gay Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) is sponsor of companion legislation. Supporters of the measure have said they’re considering including the bill as part of upcoming Elementary & Secondary Education Act authorization legislation in Congress.

The Senate legislation had 22 original co-sponsors. Even with Franken as the sponsor of the bill, one notable exception to this group was the senior senator from Minnesota, Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.).

According to the Minnesota Star-Tribune, Klobuchar signed on as a co-sponsor later Thursday following a public plea from the Family Equality Council calling on her to sign on in support.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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