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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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Virginia

Va. Senate committee kills six anti-transgender bills

Democrats control chamber by 22-18 margin

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(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Virginia Senate Education Committee on Thursday killed six anti-transgender bills.

The committee rejected state Sen. Mark Peake (R-Lynchburg)’s Senate Bill 960, state Sen. Amanda Chase (R-Colonial Heights)’s Senate Bill 791 and state Sen. Bryce Reeves (R-Spotsylvania County)’s Senate Bill 1203. All three measures would have banned transition-related health care for minors in Virginia.

The committee also killed state Sen. John Cosgrove (R-Chesapeake)’s Senate Bill 911, Reeves’ Senate Bill 1186 and Peake’s Senate Bill 962. The measures would have banned transgender athletes from school teams corresponding with their gender identity.

Equality Virginia in a tweet said committee members received more than 3,000 emails “in opposition” to the bills. The statewide advocacy group further noted 10 out of 12 anti-trans bills introduced during this year’s legislative session have been defeated.

“Thank you to everyone who has spoken up against these bills,” said Equality Virginia. “Virginia is remaining a better, more inclusive state because of your efforts.”

“The fight isn’t over,” added the advocacy group. “But we know Virginians will show up for trans youth, day after day.”

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Virginia

Va. Senate subcommittee essentially kills three anti-transgender bills

Measures would ban transition-related health care for minors

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(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A Virginia Senate subcommittee on Tuesday essentially killed three bills that would have banned transition-related health care for minors in the state.

Equality Virginia in a tweet noted the Senate Health Subcommittee “recommended killing” state Sen. Mark Peake (R-Lynchburg)’s Senate Bill 960, state Sen. Amanda Chase (R-Colonial Heights)’s Senate Bill 791 and state Sen. Bryce Reeves (R-Spotsylvania County)’s Senate Bill 1203. 

“We expect these bills to be officially dead after the full committee meets on Thursday,” said Equality Virginia.

Democrats have a 22-18 majority in the state Senate, and they have said they will block any anti-LGBTQ bill that reaches their chamber. State Del. Danica Roem (D-Manassas), who is the first openly transgender woman seated in a state legislature in the U.S., on Tuesday reiterated this point.

“With the defeat of these bills in the Senate, our (Virginia Senate Democrats) made it clear that *any* bills in the House targeting trans kids during the final week before crossover will not become law if they make it to the Senate,” she tweeted. “Let’s focus on feeding kids, not singling them out.”

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The White House

Doug Emhoff visits monument to gay victims of the Nazis in Berlin

Second gentleman marked International Holocaust Remembrance Day at Auschwitz

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The Memorial to Homosexuals persecuted under Nazism in Berlin on July 23, 2022. Second gentleman Doug Emhoff visited the memorial on Jan. 31, 2023. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Second gentleman Doug Emhoff on Tuesday visited a monument to gay victims of the Nazis in Berlin.

A readout from Emhoff’s office notes he visited the Memorial to the Persecuted Homosexuals under National Socialism with Philipp Braun of the Lesbian and Gay Federation of Germany, a German LGBTQ and intersex rights group. Christopher Schreiber and Alexander Scheld of the Berlin-Brandenburg Lesbian and Gay Federation were also with Emhoff.

“The Memorial to the Persecuted Homosexuals under Nazi Socialism is intended to honor the homosexual victims of National Socialism and at the same time ‘set a constant sign against intolerance, hostility and exclusion towards gays and lesbians,'” notes the readout.

Emhoff on Tuesday visited other memorials that honor the Sinti and Roma and people with disabilities who the Nazis killed. The second gentleman also visited Berlin’s Holocaust memorial before he met with five people who survived it.

The second gentleman earlier in the day participated in a roundtable with Jewish, Muslim and Christian leaders and met with Ukrainian refugees at Berlin’s New Synagogue. Emhoff on Monday participated in a meeting at the city’s Topography of Terror Museum that focused on antisemitism.

International Holocaust Memorial Day, which commemorates the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in Poland in 1945, took place on Jan. 27. 

Emhoff, who is Jewish, traveled to the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Memorial and Museum and participated in ceremonies that commemorated the camp’s liberation. He later attended a Shabbat dinner with members of the Jewish community in Krakow, visited Oscar Schindler’s factory and met with Ukrainian refugees at a U.N. Refugee Agency community center before he traveled to Germany.

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