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Polis reintroduces Student Non-Discrimination Act

Legislation prohibits discrimination against LGBT students

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U.S. Rep. Jared Polis (center) (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

One of the openly gay members of Congress on Thursday reintroduced legislation aimed to protect LGBT students against bullying and discrimination in school.

In the U.S. House, Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo) introduced the Student Non-Discrimination Act — as Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) introduced companion legislation in the Senate — at a time when bullying of LGBT students is receiving considerable attention.

In a statement, Polis said “education is the right of every student” regardless of their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.

“It becomes more apparent with each case that this is a problem that is not going away — sometimes even teachers and administrators contribute to the problem,” Polis said. “The alarming increase in teen suicides has shown us just how far we are from making our children’s schools safe spaces.  We must take action to protect the safety of our students and enshrine the values of equality and opportunity in our classrooms.”

Modeled after Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the Student Non-Discrimination Act would establish a comprehensive federal prohibition against discrimination in public schools against LGBT students. Additionally, the measure would also forbid schools from discriminating against based on the sexual orientation and gender identity and prohibit them from ignoring harassing behavior.

If enacted into law, violating the Student Non-Discrimination Act would lead to the loss of federal funding and give victims a legal cause of action for discrimination in public schools.

The lawmakers introduced the legislation on the same day President Obama held a White House conference to speak out and devise strategies against bullying in schools. Earlier in the week, Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) introduced the Safe Schools Improvement Act in the U.S. Senate, which would require schools to establish anti-bullying policies.

Bullying against LGBT students received renewed attention late last year when several young men who were gay or perceived to be gay took their own lives after they were reportedly bullied. Among them was Tyler Clementi, a Rutgers University student, who leaped off the George Washington Bridge in September after a video was posted online of him reportedly having a sexual encounter with another man in his dorm room.

In a statement, Franken decried the bullying of gay students and said he’s committed to passing legislation that would remedy the situation.

“Unchecked bullying of LGBT students is unacceptable,” Franken said. “The high suicide rate for LGBT youth — as witnessed across the country over the past year — shows that we are falling drastically short in our efforts to protect our kids,” Franken said.

First introduced in the 111th Congress, the Student Non-Discrimination Act currently has 99 co-sponsors in the House and 27 co-sponsors in the Senate.

In a statement, Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, praised Polis and Franken for reintroducing the legislation in Congress.

“Every child deserves an equal education free from discrimination, harassment and bullying,” Solmonese said. “Unfortunately, LGBT students have historically been alienated, harassed, and bullied in their schools, with little or no intervention from school personnel. Far too many of these students have underperformed or dropped out in response to the lack of safety and support.”

Download a copy of the Senate version of the bill.

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39 Comments

39 Comments

  1. Tim

    March 11, 2011 at 7:45 am

    Unfortunately, this bill has almost no possiblity of passing, considering it sat around for two years with no action when the Dems controlled both houses of Congress. Now that the GOP runs the house it doesn’t stand a chance.

    • EC

      March 31, 2011 at 7:38 pm

      Good. This bill does nothing more than promote the homosexual lifestyle as “okay”….its not, its a perversion and should not be taught in school.

    • Human First

      April 13, 2011 at 4:31 pm

      I thank God that this biased legislation which attempts to inject more gender politics into the schools will not pass. … Double standards, forced acceptance of immorality, and rebellion against the laws of the universe. Continuing to push such things will undoubtedly create dire consequences in the very nature of our social fabric.

    • DD

      May 9, 2011 at 6:03 pm

      FORTUNATELY, the GOP and most Democrats see this issue as a polarizing, vote-losing, and totally unnecessary legislative solution in search of a perceived “problem” of a miniscule, but highly vocal, minority.
      To tie school-yard bullying to the LGBT and their radical agenda is like killing a fly with a 16-lb sledge hammer. To subject the entire hetrosexual school population by calling for action to ” . . . protect the safety of our students and enshrine the values of equality and opportunity in our classrooms” is just a smoke screen to promote, glorify, and litgitimize the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender life styles.

    • AW

      June 1, 2011 at 10:28 pm

      Kudos to the GOP Congress.

    • Geo

      April 17, 2012 at 1:30 pm

      The big issue here is that people…just as black americans were discriminated….yet they did not kill themselves…enslaved, raped, brutially abused emotionally and socially…and economically. The rejected and enslaved people learned to rise above the abuse…they did not kill themselves. Those who kill themselves, found an excuse…to carry out something beyond their sexual state. WAKE UP EVERYONE, If your gay…GROW UP, TOUGHEN UP, AND STOP THE PITY PARTY!!! Maybe they killed themselves, because they did not really love themselves…which in a nutshell, is why people kill themselves, not because other people disappove. SHOULD WE PASS LAWS ABOUT NOT LOVING OURSELVES? I am not decieved, neither should you.

  2. libhomo

    March 12, 2011 at 11:56 pm

    Tim: It takes years to pass civil rights legislation. We need to fight for it now and keep fighting it until it does pass. It won’t be easy. It seldom is, but it is worth the effort.

  3. Kenny

    March 15, 2011 at 5:10 pm

    There’s a big difference between bullying of any individual, and an act whose basic intent is advance the radical homosexual agenda in America’s classrooms. Neither bullying nor perversity have any place in American edication.

    • A Waldhauer

      January 12, 2012 at 9:23 pm

      This is so funny! “Radical homosexual agenda?” It’s ridiculous.

      But I agree that bullying has no place in schools. We have stood up for people who are different or in a less powerful position — girls, members of minority groups, and so forth — and we need to make sure that this principle is maintained. The heretical aspects of the bullying aside (Who are we to question God’s creation of gays?) it is the only decent thing to do.

  4. J M

    March 15, 2011 at 5:14 pm

    This should not be passed…ever! The LGBT community constantly wants special treatment and privileges. As for the young students who committed suicide: Well ask yourself why did they actually kill themselves? If they did not want to be caught doing such acts then maybe they should have taken more precautions to not get caught. Not to mention they were obviously troubled and would have, more than likely, committed suicide at some point in their life. I have no sympathy for someone who does something, then gets caught and is embarrassed. Own your decisions people and stop being such whiners about everything in your life. If you are gay, fine but do not try and force your beliefs on everyone else, or other children. School is about education not about sexuality! What happens in the bedroom should stay in the bedroom. If somehow it “escapes” from the bedroom, then deal with the issue instead of running or taking the easy way out. Countless celebrities have had sex tape scandals and none of them have committed suicide over them, so obviously these students, at least to a certain degree, felt what they were doing was wrong or they would not have tried so hard to conceal it.

    • Rowan West

      March 25, 2011 at 5:39 am

      How is it “special treatment” to be able to go to school without fearing for your life or safety? As a straight person, you already have that privilege. Are you subjected to severe bullying because of the way you look, the way you dress, or the people you associate with? Do people steal your belongings, deface your property, chant demeaning slogans at you, or threaten you with bodily harm for the “crime” of being attracted to someone of a certain gender? LGBT people are not “forcing their beliefs” on us, they are just trying to live the normal life you take for granted. These students were driven to suicide–not because “they were caught”, but because of the constant harassment they had to deal with as a result of insensitive individuals such as yourself after they were “revealed” to be LGBT. If you could spend a year in their shoes–facing prejudice and discrimination from your classmates, your teachers, even your family, for something you had no control over–you would probably be contemplating suicide, too. (You do not “choose” to be gay, any more than you “choose” to be attracted to red hair. Attraction is caused by chemicals in your brain; if you’re wired slightly differently, you may find yourself attracted to blondes, or people with Asian features, or people of the same gender as yourself. It’s not something you can control.)

      The basic message of this Act is this: If a boy and a girl walk down the hall holding hands, no one looks twice. If two boys, or two girls, do the same, they become targets. This Act is trying to change that fact. Not to make people gay, not to force beliefs on anyone, not to give anyone special privileges. It’s not about sex. It’s simply about making our schools safer for ALL students, no matter who they love.

      • teachntwins

        May 6, 2012 at 11:08 pm

        I agree with you Rowen. And the idiot that replied to you…Yes my kids have been bullied for being Christians. Do they seek special treatment? NO. They have been teased and harrassed for quietly folding their hands and silently saying a prayer before lunch. YES some kids are teased because of the way they look, because of they way they dress and because of the people they associate with. (good arguement on your part). Children are teased for many reasons NOT just because they are gltb. My daughter befriended a child in her class they EVERYONE teased for being fat and being “sensitive” (a crybaby). Now my daughter suffers the ridicule of reaching out to this child. I’m proud of her that she stands up for this child and she endures the ridicule!!!!! She know’s in her heart she is doing the right thing. And yes being GLTB is a CHOICE. It’s called SIN and it goes back to biblical times….it was condemned in the bible. (as it should be). You make a choice. It’s called having self control and turning from sin no matter how difficult it is.

        Also a guy and a girl aren’t supposed to be holding hands in school…most every school I’ve been to has a policy of “NO display of public affection” So whether they are GLTB doesn’t matter. YES it is trying to change peoples beliefs and make us more “tolerant” of sin. If EVERYONE WAS GLBT THEIR WOULD BE NO MORE CHILDREN AND LIFE WOULD CEASE!!!!!!

        All children should be accepted, but their sexual desires SHOULD NOT BE PART OF SCHOOL!!!! We don’t send our kids to school for dating…they are their for an EDUCATION and only an education!!!!! Where’s the equality for ALL children? You scream seperation of church and state and tell me it’s a free country, but want GOD removed from everything. I can’t wear a shirt with religious implications on it, but you can openly flaunt your sexuallity?!!! Get informed and be consistant!!!! I”ll let you be “openly gay” but you let me bring my bible to school to read during my free time and allow me to wear my “Jesus freak” shirts.

    • Mark

      January 7, 2012 at 10:31 am

      Special treatment? Oh, you mean like equality! Yeah, I guess we do want equal treatment under civil law. However, I will tell you that there are many gay and lesbian children out there and they need to know that they are just as normal as anyone else. No one would actually be teaching sexuality, but the contributions gays and lesbians have made to society. Don’t you think that is important?

      • teachntwins

        May 6, 2012 at 11:09 pm

        NO IT”S NOT NORMAL!!!!! If it were then GLTB could procreat without special assistance!!!!!

  5. M D

    March 17, 2011 at 11:54 pm

    umm JM they thought it was wrong because we treat them that way.

    I don’t think it is actually special treatment to ask for basic rights that every school child should have.

    If we’re trying to teach our kids to act like adults, we need to hold them to higher standards. Standards that would be expected of them in the real world.

    Any good reason to harrass another human being out there? Certainly wouldn’t be allowed in my workplace.

  6. RN

    March 18, 2011 at 7:06 am

    When the Dem’s enact Sharia law, then the problem will take care of itself, half of the Dem’s will be gone.

  7. Elsie

    April 1, 2011 at 2:16 am

    These Congressmen should be ashamed of themselves for putting forth such a bill. Government cannot solve the develolpmental stages our children pass through while growing up. Only the children themselves can learn how to take care of themselves IF they are supported by a strong family behind them….whether gay or straight! It is hard growing up and learning how to handle yourself within your peer group. Each child must, with parental support, be allowed to find his or her own way. Parents have to learn how to support….not to remove the problem from the child…but allow the child to confront the problem and gain the self confidence of being able to take care of himself. Parents cannot make the world perfect for their children and CONGRESS….no matter how well intended….CERTAINLY CAN NOT!! My advice from 80 years of raising kids….and still raising grandchildren!
    P.S. I have known 4 homosexual children of friends, now grown, who weathered the storms of adolescents and peer groups and are confident, productive human beings who were allowed to settle their own problems, with support when needed, and only grew stronger and more confident as a result. Give kids some credit for their own solutions for life’s problems! Is Rep. Jared Polis just trying to get some publicity and recognition from his peer?

    • teachntwins

      May 6, 2012 at 11:20 pm

      Well said Elsie!!!!!

  8. Maddie

    April 1, 2011 at 10:44 am

    I believe that this law should be passed; but it should be broadened when considering who is being protected. It is true that the LGBT community is ridiculed very harshly, and this is well known because members of that community make the world aware of it. They are more vocal about their discrimination because they haven’t had any rights for a reasonable about of time. But this law needs to focus more so on a wider scale; this should stop all discrimination with students in all grade levels (elementary through college). There are students who are ridiculed at school on a daily basis because of the color of their hair, the clothes they wear, the way the walk, the way they talk and so on. Teachers and administrators (even some parents) see this and nothing is done about it. I know we have tried many times to stop bullying, but never has there been an instance where we have tried to make a law about it. It seems unfair to all of the other students who are being bullied for reasons other than their sexual orientation to try to pass a law just to keep this small fraction of students protected.

  9. PaulE

    April 12, 2011 at 7:49 pm

    Please explain to me why we don’t go further in this and allow pedophiles to go into schools? Why not just registering sex offenders? There are standards of society. I absolutely don’t care what two consenting ADULTS do behind closed doors; however, trying to legislate your “morality” on the rest of us is just plain wrong.

    • Mark

      January 7, 2012 at 10:41 am

      Morality is subjective. What I find morally reprehensible, you may not. Example: I’m a vegetarian, and I find eating meat is morally reprehensible, but most people have no problem going through they drive-thru of McD’s or Burger King, but I happen to know that morals are subjective, so why should someone force their morals, by law, to those who don’t believe as you do?

      • Matthew

        March 1, 2012 at 1:57 pm

        OK, then we will discuss ethics, what is deemed acceptable by the majority. I know as well as you do that morals are subjective, but this bill is not just about keeping students and schools from discriminating against other students, that has just been pushed to the forefront seeing that it’s the easiest to defend. If you look into all the things this bill actually contains, you will find that it would mandate that homosexual behavior to be taught in sex-ed classes. I realize that I may be in the minority when I state that I believe sex-ed should be taught to children by their parents, but I definitely don’t think that the views of a few should be impressed upon our youth as normal acceptable behavior. You cannot tell me that every student in 5th grade is ready to learn about how the reproductive organs work and as my teacher stated that, “sex is messy.” Much less have activities described to them that the the majority deems unacceptable. These are direct attacks on many people’s religions and beliefs. In that case why don’t we just teach what the white supremacists believe, I mean they do believe that they are morally right and after all it’s just information, the students can do with it what they will. We cannot take this view on matters so pertinent to the future of our children. This bill will also protect LGBT’s from being punished for propositioning or coming on to other students, under their right of “freedom of self-expression”. There are countless other issues that this bill pushes, that are direct infringements on rights that are already established.

  10. Chelynne

    April 12, 2011 at 8:24 pm

    I think this bill should be revised…. Discrimination and bullying of ANYONE should not be tolerated, not just sexual orientation. There are fat kids, skinny kids, kids with zits, nerds and just regularly confused kids that are bullied and discriminated against for not being part of the “IN” crowd… To all out focus on LGBT children is ridiculous… Not only that but this bill allows for homosexual propaganda to be handed out and taught to our children in school ALONG with the already explicit sexual education.. How would that be for straight children who dont question their orientation be subjected to homosexual images and information… It would basically allow our children to be taught to BE homosexual…

    All children need to be protected from being hurt and discrimated against… It is NOT just homosexual children that commit suicide… They should focus more on counseling for the bullied victim and punishment for the bullier.

    REVISE THE BILL TO PROTECT ALL CHILDREN FROM “BULLYING” NOT SEXUAL HARASSMENT BECAUSE OF THE LIFESTYLE THEY CHOOSE. THE MOMENT THEY TEACH MY KIDS HOW TO BE HOMOSEXUAL WITH PROPAGANDA IN SCHOOL. MY KIDS WILL NO LONGER ATTEND!!!!!

  11. rooster

    May 18, 2011 at 8:26 am

    The bible says that homosexuals will not inherit the kingdom of God. If we are going to shove this legislation down our kids throats, let’s not forget to give equal and fair time to the other side in our schools. Love the sinner, hate the sin.

    • Mark

      January 7, 2012 at 10:43 am

      No where in your bible does it say that. But let me inform you that loving the sinner and hating the sin, doesn’t absolve you from the sin of hate.

  12. Dean

    June 1, 2011 at 10:17 pm

    Having just read the bill, I see no commitment to “teaching” homosexuality in our schools. The bill is merely focusing on protecting LGBT students from harassment and discrimination while they are presently are left out of federal statutes for protection. It is not special protection. It is merely the same as everyone else. I invite you to read the bill. It seems that several people posting ahead of me either haven’t read the bill or they have an agenda of hate that won’t be deterred.

  13. Emz

    June 2, 2011 at 6:07 am

    I wholeheartedly support this bill. Homphobia, bigotry, and discrimination should perish from schools.

  14. Emz

    June 2, 2011 at 6:07 am

    *homophobia

    • Joe Bones

      June 2, 2011 at 3:54 pm

      There is no such thing as homophobia! There is only Normal, Decent, Moral People Against Sexual Perversion, What’s next Special Rights and Protections for Child Molesters, are Child Molesters now a Down trodden Minority that Deserves to be elevated to the Status of a Minority, and if we are going down this road to Total Depravity why not give Every Group of Sexual Perverts and Deviants around the world Carte Blanche to do as They Want to Whom Ever They Want When Ever They Want, with No Laws or Penalties or Controls of anykind, just let them RUN AMOK!!!

  15. Joe Bones

    June 2, 2011 at 4:48 pm

    I don’t hate Homosexuals, But They Don’t Ever Have The Right To FORCE THEIR VIEWS ON ANYONE ELSE, AND THEY ARE DOING EVERYTHING IN THEIR POWER, WITH EXTREME PREJUDICE, TO MANDATE AND LEGISLATE THEIR BELIEFS ON ALL AMERICANS WHETHER WE LIKE IT OR NOT, you can’t Force Immorality or something that is so disgusting and filthy on Normal People. The Government can’t pass enough laws to force me to accept homo’s or their lifestyle IT WILL NEVER HAPPEN, The more you try to Force people to accept Sexual Perversion the harder we will fight against it, NOBODY CAN EVER MAKE NORMAL, DECENT, MORAL PEOPLE ACCEPT SEXUAL DEVIANTS, FORCE NEVER WORKS, It will create a Huge BackLash against the very people The Government ( say’s ) they are trying to help, so let the government try, it will make things one hundred times worse for homo’s so I say, Go For it you Government Thugs, Go For it. Have a nice day.

    • David

      June 9, 2011 at 10:25 am

      I don’t hate homosexuals either. They can do what they want. Perhaps if they were not so vocal about their choice, they would not be bullied or harassed in schools. The gay lobby has been trying to get their agenda in schools for a very long time. That is what GLSEN is the “Gay, Lesbian, Straight, Education Network”, and the guy who started this, Kevin Jennings is one of Obama’s right hand educational people.

      Obama is pro homosexual. That is more than evident with his support of this nonsense. He has held conferences in the last few weeks with the homosexual people/students, in secret I might add as no reporters were allowed in these conferences.

      I pity America as homosexuality and all perversion will destroy this once great nation.

    • David

      December 19, 2011 at 10:24 pm

      OK. But the common belief used to be that women can’t work or teach men, and that blacks shouldn’t intermarry or even share bathrooms with whites…so rude of them to force their beliefs on us after those pesky 60s. The contradiction in your argument is clear…gays are also part of “us”. Get over it.

    • Mark

      January 7, 2012 at 10:44 am

      No one is asking for your approval, we DEMAND equal treatment under civil law.

  16. Luke Letter

    June 9, 2011 at 10:24 am

    It makes me sick that the government is so blind. Students dont care about legislation. This will not prevent bullying. Bullying happens, and its a stage of social adjustment for youths. Bullys should be punished regardless of the nature of the bully and the victim. However, this bill prevents shools from talking about familys without also talking about same sex marriage familys. Is that really what we want in our schools? It hasnothing to do with bullying and suicide. If the only solution to youth suicide is to teach all children that gay relationships are normal, then I chose the youth suicide.

    • L La

      August 10, 2011 at 11:31 am

      Another attempt from the government and specifically the Department of Education under Arne Duncan to foist their version of morality on our children. Bullying will always be with us, it is human nature and will never change. I’m so sorry that two people committed suicide, but suicide is a choice and in most cases we will never know why the victim chose this path. To insinuate and then legislate this ridiculous attempt to promote the LGBT lifestyle is immoral and Un-American.The first thing I would cut and defund would be the DOE, absolutely useless waste of our tax dollars.

  17. dana

    October 25, 2011 at 9:36 am

    everybody gets bullied unless your ‘popular’ or whatever. Kids, coaches, teachers, parents, and administrators will bully a person for not being on a sports team or for having not grown into your ears yet. Whatever, the point is EVERYBODY gets bullied, so this bill need to NOT be geared towards the SMALL percent of school kids that claim they are LGBT. Many kids go through stages where they may be attracted to the same sex. that does NOT mean when they become adults they WILL be gay. growing up is about exploring. the more this LGBT crap is pushed on kids, the less straight people will be able to say anything!!!

  18. Erik

    April 16, 2012 at 2:42 pm

    It is already illegal to haze, harrass, or menace anybody for any reason, and therefore, this act is not necessary. Besides, the real reason for this act is not to discourage the behavior of bullies, but to try to force people, by law, to accept sinful and offensive sexual behavior. The Student Non-Discrimination Act constitutes attempted vandalism of our society, as it seeks to stifle those who are willing to speak the truth about homosexualtiy.

  19. Geo

    April 17, 2012 at 1:45 pm

    Also, when I was in grammer school…I was beat up several times, by the same kids.
    I was white, they were black. My parents went to school to get help. Nothing but warnings. Then I took another beating for opening my mouth! Was I depressed, yes. However, one day when I was bullied and beat up again…I raised my fist and struck back…to let them feel pain as I had suffered. It all ended…no more problems. DId I kill myself…no. RESOLVE…if you kill yourself, you resolved it recklessly…you did not love yourself, which no one can do for you. And…Did I ask for a law to protect me? No. Will laws protect you…NO. People break them anyway. Does it help to pass laws, no.
    Children are still raped, women raped, people sold off as sex slaves. Moral clarity cannot be regulated by laws. God loves us, given us life…but do we have reverence for God? Here is our true issue…we sin against God and ourselves…and ask governments to protect us? Wake up.

  20. James

    April 17, 2012 at 2:16 pm

    OK looking over the law…mmmm I don’t see anything explicitly saying that any sort of ‘leftist’ ‘homosexual’ ‘sinful’ ‘sexual choice’ agenda will be forced down the kids throats… Nothing at all about the process of education, or the addition or removal or ban of any curriculum. It only really mentions that harassment, discrimination, or threats will not be tolerated and the victim has the ability to sue if normal means of remedy fail.

    Maybe I’m on another planet. But just because a group of people loudly trying to get a good bill that would protect all our kids in the end, should be killed with fire because the people in the group have different feelings about relationships? Heaven forbid us progressive and oh-so-free Americans shake off our puritan roots. Seriously, our ancestors placed boards between couples in bed and made them use silly wispier pipes… and burned various ‘witches’ and other sinners…we just gotta keep to those traditional roots boys…

    hmmm I’ll make a quick crazy conspiracy theory here…maybe many people don’t want to have this law passed because if it gives minority groups, and other put down groups, the ability to seek legal (Read: $$$$) action. Many school districts, teachers, students, and their families might be awash in lawsuits; since the problem is so widespread, we might see entire school districts close, or get absorbed into other districts. A huge wave of lawsuits could wash over the school system…

    hmmm that doesn’t seem so crazy now when you think of it…

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National

Activists demand ICE release transgender, HIV-positive detainees

Protest took place outside agency’s D.C. headquarters on Wednesday

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Jessycka Ckatallea Letona, an indigenous transgender woman from Guatemala who spent nearly two years in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody, participated in a protest in front of ICE's headquarters in Southwest D.C. on Oct. 27, 2021. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Jessycka Ckatallea Letona is an indigenous transgender woman from Guatemala who fled persecution in her homeland because of her gender identity.

She asked for asylum in the U.S. in 2016 when she entered the country in Eagle Pass, Texas.

Ckatallea on Wednesday told the Washington Blade that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials placed her in a pod with 70 men at a privately-run detention center in Florence, Ariz. She also said personnel at another ICE detention center in Santa Ana, Calif., ridiculed her because of her gender identity and forced her to strip naked before she attended hearings in her asylum case.

Ckatallea spent a year and eight months in ICE custody before her release. She won her asylum case and now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

“It was a very traumatic experience,” said Ckatallea as she spoke with the Blade in front of ICE’s headquarters in Southwest D.C. “I came to a country thinking that it would take care of me, that it would protect me because of my gender identity.”

Ckatallea is one of the more than a dozen immigrant rights activists who participated in a protest in front of ICE’s headquarters that Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement, Immigration Equality and the End Trans Detention campaign organized. Ckatallea, Immigration Equality Executive Director Aaron Morris and other protest participants demanded ICE immediately release trans people and people with HIV/AIDS from their custody.

The groups placed on the sidewalk in front of the building a Day of the Dead “ofrenda” to honor three trans women—Victoria Orellano, Roxsana Hernández and Johana “Joa” Medina León—who died in ICE custody or immediately after their release. The “ofrenda” also paid tribute to Pablo Sánchez Gotopo, a Venezuelan man with AIDS who died in ICE custody on Oct. 1.

Immigrant rights activists on Oct. 27, 2021, placed a Day of the Dead “ofrenda” outside U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement headquarters in Southwest D.C. that honored three transgender women and a man with AIDS who died while in ICE custody or immediately upon their release. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Ckatallea, Morris and the other protesters approached the building’s entrance and presented security personnel with a petition that calls upon President Biden and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to “immediately release all transgender people, people living with HIV, and people with medical conditions from ICE custody.”

ICE has repeatedly defended its treatment of trans people and people with HIV/AIDS who are in their custody.

The Blade in July 2020 interviewed a person with HIV who was in ICE custody at the Adams County Detention Center, the same privately-run facility in which Gotopo was held until his hospitalization. The person with whom the Blade spoke described conditions inside the detention center as “not safe” because personnel were not doing enough to protect them and other detainees from COVID-19.

Congressman Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) is among the dozens of lawmakers who have called for the release of all trans people and people with HIV/AIDS from ICE custody. The Illinois Democrat on Tuesday reiterated this call during a virtual briefing that Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement, Immigration Equality and the End Trans Detention Campaign organized.

“ICE’s clear inability to do better leads me to seek to end of ICE’s detention of all trans migrants,” said Quigley. “During both the Trump and Biden administration I led dozens of my colleagues to demand that ICE release transgender detainees and end its practice of holding trans migrants in custody. We had hoped that things would change with the new administration, so far I’m disappointed.”

Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) also participated in the briefing alongside Immigration Equality Legal Director Bridget Crawford and Sharita Gruberg of the Center for American Progress and others.

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Texas

Texas GOP Governor Greg Abbott signs anti-Trans youth sports bill

“Despite the powerful testimony of trans kids & adults- the emails to the Governor to veto this harmful piece of legislation it is now law”

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Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott (Blade file screenshot)

AUSTIN – Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law Monday H.B. 25, an anti-Transgender youth sports bill banning Trans K-12 student-athletes from playing on sports teams consistent with their gender identity. 

H.B. 25 is the 9th statewide bill signed into law this year banning transgender youth from participating in school sports and the 10th in the country. This bill also comes during a year when Texas lawmakers have proposed nearly 70 anti-LGBTQ bills, including more than 40 bills that specifically target transgender and nonbinary youth — far more than any other state.

“We are devastated at the passage of this bill. Despite the powerful testimony of trans kids and adults, families and advocates, and the many emails and calls our community placed to the Governor’s office to veto this harmful piece of legislation it is now law,” Ricardo Martinez, CEO of Equality Texas, said.

“Most immediately, our focus is our community and integrating concepts of healing justice to provide advocates who have already been harmed by this bill with spaces to refill their cup and unpack the acute trauma caused by these legislative sessions. Our organizations will also begin to shift focus to electing pro-equality lawmakers who understand our issues and prioritize representing the vast majority of Texans who firmly believe that discrimination against trans and LGB+ people is wrong,” he added.

Earlier this month, the Texas state government was criticized for removing web pages with resources for LGBTQ youth, including information about The Trevor Project’s crisis services. The Trevor Project the world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ+ young people.

“Transgender and nonbinary youth are already at higher risk for poor mental health and suicide because of bullying, discrimination, and rejection. This misguided legislation will only make matters worse,” Amit Paley, CEO and Executive Director of The Trevor Project said in a statement released Monday afternoon.

To every trans Texan who may be feeling hurt and attacked by this legislation and months of ugly political debate — please know that you are valid, and you are deserving of equal opportunity, dignity and respect. The Trevor Project is here for you 24/7 if you ever need support, and we will continue fighting alongside a broad coalition of advocates to challenge this law,” Paley said.

********************

Additional resources:

Research consistently demonstrates that transgender and nonbinary youth face unique mental health challenges and an elevated risk for bullying and suicide risk compared to their peers.  

  • The Trevor Project’s 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health found that more than half (52%) of transgender and nonbinary youth seriously considered suicide in the past year, and 1 in 5 attempted suicide. 94% of LGBTQ youth reported that recent politics negatively impacted their mental health. 
  • A newly published research brief on “Bullying and Suicide Risk among LGBTQ Youth,” found that 61% of transgender and nonbinary (TGNB) students reported being bullied either in-person or electronically in the past year, compared to 45% of cisgender LGBQ students. TGNB students who were bullied in the past year reported more than twice the rate of attempting suicide in the past year compared to those who were not. And TGNB students who said their school was LGBTQ-affirming reported significantly lower rates of being bullied (55%) compared to those in schools that weren’t LGBTQ-affirming (65%).
  • A 2020 peer-reviewed study found that transgender and nonbinary youth who report experiencing discrimination based on their gender identity had more than double the odds of attempting suicide in the past year compared to those who did not experience discrimination based on their gender identity.
  • Trevor’s research has also found that a majority of LGBTQ young people (68%) had never participated in sports for a school or community league or club — with many citing fear of bullying and discrimination as a key factor for not participating.

If you or someone you know needs help or support, The Trevor Project’s trained crisis counselors are available 24/7 at 1-866-488-7386, via chat at TheTrevorProject.org/Help, or by texting START to 678678.

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National

Ohio high school cancels play with Gay character after Pastor complains

The School’s fall production of “She Kills Monsters” was scheduled to open in less than one month until the play was canceled

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Hillsboro High School (Screenshot via Cincinnati ABC affiliate WCPO-TV)

HILLSBORO, Oh. — A Southwest Ohio high school’s play was abruptly canceled after Jeff Lyle, a local pastor from Good News Gathering, complained of a gay character. 

Hillsboro High School’s fall production of “She Kills Monsters” was scheduled to open in less than one month, until students learned the play would be canceled last week, reports Cincinnati’s ABC affiliate WCPO

The story follows a high school senior as she learns about her late sister’s life. It is implied throughout the play that her sister is gay, according to the news station.

The play’s cancellation comes a week after Lyle, a long-time voice of the anti-LGBTQ+ religious-right in Ohio, and a group of parents confronted the production’s directors at a meeting, according to Cincinnati CBS affiliate Local 12. Lyle denies pressuring school officials, but tells WCPO he supports the decision.

“From a Biblical worldview this play is inappropriate for a number of reasons, e.g. sexual innuendo, implied sexual activity between unmarried persons, repeated use of foul language including taking the Lord’s name in vain,” Lyle said. 

Some families say they believe Lyle did influence the school’s decision. 

“I think that’s wrong,” Jon Polstra, a father of one of the actors, told WCPO. “All they would have had to do if they objected to something in the play was not go to the play.”

In a statement to Local 12, Hillsboro City Schools Superintendent Tim Davis said the play was canceled because it “was not appropriate for our K-12 audience.”

The Lexington Herald Leader reports that the school planned to perform a version intended for audiences as young as 11 years old. 

Students were “devastated” and “blindsided” by the news, according to WCPO. 

“It felt like we had just been told, ‘Screw off and your lives don’t matter,'” Christopher Cronan, a Hillsboro High student, said. “I am openly bisexual in that school and I have faced a lot of homophobia there, but I never expected them to cancel a play for a fictional character.”

Cronan’s father, Ryan, also voiced his frustration. 

“They want to say the town is just not ready, but how are you not ready? It’s 2021,” Ryan Cronan said.

Students have started a GoFundMe in hopes of putting on the production at a community theater in 2022.

“If we do raise enough money, I am going to be genuinely happy for a very long time, because that means people do care,” Cronan told WCPO.

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