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LGBT-inclusive education reform bill introduced in Senate

Harkin includes SNDA, SSIA provisions as part of measure

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Tom Harkin, United States Senate, Democratic Party, Iowa, gay news, Washington Blade
Senate HELP Committee Chair Tom Harkin has pledged to move ENDA this year (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Senate HELP Committee Chair Tom Harkin has pledged to advance ENDA this year. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The lead Democrat on education issues in the U.S. Senate introduced on Tuesday an education reform bill that includes provisions aimed at prohibiting bullying and discrimination of LGBT students.

For the first time, Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee Chair Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) introduced the LGBT-inclusive legislation to reauthorize the Elementary & Secondary Education Act with language along the lines of  the Student Non-Discrimination Act and the Safe School Schools Improvement Act.

In a statement to the Washington Blade, Harkin touted the inclusion of the LGBT bills in his 1,150-page long bill known as the  Strengthening America’s Schools Act of 2013

“Because every child deserves a safe and healthy place to learn, we have included the Student Non-Discrimination Act and the Safe Schools Improvement Act in this year’s reauthorization of ESEA,” Harkin said. “These provisions will help to ensure that all students, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation, are treated fairly and afforded equal opportunities to succeed in the classroom.”

Modeled after Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the SNDA-like provision in the bill establishes LGBT students as a protected class and prohibits schools from discriminating against any student based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. The discrimination includes allowing bullying against them.

The bill also contains provisions similar to SSIA that advocates for a positive school climate and requires reporting on incidents of bullying, including on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Plans are already underway to advance the bill out of committee. In a statement, Harkin announced he’ll start the markup of the bill, which is co-sponsored by every Democratic member of the committee, starting Tuesday.

The LGBT provisions are a small portion of the bill. The reauthorization of the Elementary & Secondary Education Act, which intends to restructure “No Child Left Behind,” aims to support teachers and principals to help provide high-quality instruction and focus federal attention on supporting states in turning around low-performing schools.

Given that every Democrat on the panel is a co-sponsor of the education reform bill, the measure should have sufficient support for a successful committee vote. It remains to be seen whether any Republicans will vote in favor of the measure.

On the same day that Harkin introduced the education reform bill, Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) introduced the standalone version of the Student Non-Discrimination Act.

“No child should dread going to school because they don’t feel safe,” Franken said. “Our nation’s civil rights laws protect our children from bullying due to race, sex, religion, disability and national origin. My proposal extends these protections to our gay and lesbian students who shouldn’t ever feel afraid of going to school.”

Franken’s legislation has 30 co-sponsors, including lesbian Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), although the co-sponsors are Democrats.

In the House, SNDA has already been introduced. Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), a gay lawmaker who’s sponsoring the bill, commended Harkin for including the LGBT measure as part of his education reform bill.

“SNDA’s inclusion in this important bill is reflective of how important protecting all students is and I look forward to working with my colleagues on the Education & Workforce Committee to move forward on our bipartisan bill in the House,” Polis said.

SSIA has also already been introduced in the House and Senate. In the House, the bill is sponsored by Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.) while in the Senate, the chief sponsor is Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.).

Last year, Harkin introduced a version of ESEA reauthorization that lacked either SNDA or SSIA. During committee markup, advocates pressured Franken and Casey to introduce their legislation as amendments during the committee markup. They ultimately withdrew their amendments in committee while promising to offer the bills as amendments on the Senate floor. However, the full Senate never considered ESEA reauthorization.

LGBT advocates praised Harkin for introducing the LGBT-inclusive education reform bill and said they’d work to make sure the measure is signed into law.

Ian Thompson, legislative representative of the American Civil Liberties Union, said his organization is “very pleased” Harkin included in ESEA reauthorization a piece of LGBT legislation the ACLU has long sought.

“The fact that there is still no federal law – in the year 2013 – that explicitly protects LGBT students from discrimination and harassment in our nation’s public schools is unacceptable,” Thompson said. “We look forward to working with Chairman Harkin and Sen. Franken, SNDA’s longtime Senate champion, to advance this much-needed and long-overdue civil rights measure through the HELP Committee.”

Eliza Byard, executive director of the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, called the introduction of the LGBT-inclusive bill “a significant moment for our nation’s education system.”

“We are thrilled that the Senate is moving to address the long overdue issue of school bullying and harassment” Byard said. “This bill includes critical components to ensure safer learning environments. We will continue to work with the Senate as the process moves forward to make sure that key provisions remain intact so that every student can reach their fullest potential.”

Shin Inouye, a White House spokesperson, also expressed support for working with Congress on issues of bullying and harassment as the legislation goes forward.

“As the Elementary and Secondary Education Act is being considered, we look forward to working with Congress to ensure that all students are safe and healthy and can learn in environments free from discrimination, bullying and harassment,” Inouye said.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. John Hollon

    June 7, 2013 at 11:13 am

    Why are they concentrating on G & Ls. what about the straight intelligent students that want a education just like most students. Where was this provision when some gay and lesbian bullies verbally and in writing attacked my daughter in HIGH SCHOOL, Of course the police and school administrators pooh poohed our formal complaint…………..
    They said we were over reacting. When someone verbally and in writing they are going to kill my daughter that is not over reacting that is law enforcers and adminstrators that are lazy!!!!!

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Politics

Anti-LGBTQ Daily Wire host says 2 men shouldn’t be allowed to adopt babies

” […] because babies need mothers. They also need fathers, which is why two women shouldn’t be allowed either.”

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Screenshot of Matt Walsh via YouTube (Blade file photo)

NASHVILLE – Anti-LGBTQ Daily Wire podcast and YouTuber Matt Walsh joined the growing chorus of far-right and conservative voices outraged that U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg went on paternity leave from his job in August after he and his husband Chasten had adopted two children.

On his show Monday Walsh not only criticized Buttigieg, but he attacked same-sex couples adopting children altogether.

It’s absurd for any public employee, paid on taxpayer dime, to be given that much time off. Now, you can make an argument for women on maternity leave but not for men. Paternity leave is a nice luxury for private companies that can afford it. The U.S. government is not a private company – it’s a public institution, deeply in debt, failing in just about every way and everywhere. So this is not a time and not the place for those kinds of luxuries. But that’s the somewhat safer point to make, right? You are in a much more hazardous place, you are in more hazardous waters when you go away from that and, instead, you start saying mildly critical things about paternity leave in general as a concept.”

I also didn’t say that there’s nothing at all for a man to do for his family after a child is born. I said that as far as caring for the newborn himself, most of that is going to be done by the mother. She, in most cases, will be feeding the child. The child also needs and wants his mother’s presence, his mother’s touch, her voice. The father should be interacting with the baby also, obviously, but the infant is far more focused on his mother at that age. And needs his mother more. There is no mother in the Buttigieg household, but that doesn’t change the point here.”

Babies need their mothers, which is why two men shouldn’t be allowed to adopt babies in the first place. And the outrage mob can now start a secondary campaign over that comment. But I’ll say it again. Two men should not be allowed to adopt babies because babies need mothers. They also need fathers, which is why two women shouldn’t be allowed either.

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Politics

Pete Buttigieg calls out Tucker Carlson over attack

Fox News host mocked transportation secretary over paternity leave

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U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg (Washington Blade file photo)

Appearing remotely on MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace’s politics program Friday, U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg called out Fox News host Tucker Carlson for the attack on his parental leave.

“This attack is coming from a guy who has yet to explain his apparent approval for the assassination of Harvey Milk, ” Buttigieg said.

During his Thursday evening program Carlson said, “Pete Buttigieg has been on leave from his job since August after adopting a child—paternity leave, they call it—trying to figure out how to breastfeed. No word on how that went. But now he’s back in office as the transportation secretary and he’s deeply amused, he says, to see that dozens of container ships can’t get into this country.”

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National

Biden recognizes National Coming Out Day as time to honor LGBTQ people

White House statement denounces ‘bullying and harassment’

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President Biden recognized Oct. 11 as National Coming Out Day in a statement on Monday calling the occasion a time to celebrate the “courage of LGBTQ+ people who live their lives with pride, create community with open arms and hearts, and showcase the strength of being your authentic self.”

Biden ticked off in the statement the achievements on LGBTQ policy, including signing an executive order on his first day in his office ordering federal agencies to implement the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last year against anti-LGBTQ discrimination to the furthest extent possible.

“Despite the extraordinary progress our nation has made, our work to ensure the full promise of equality is not yet done. Anti-LGBTQ+ bills still proliferate in state legislatures,” Biden said. “Bullying and harassment — particularly of young transgender Americans and LGBTQ+ people of color — still abounds, diminishing our national character. We must continue to stand together against these acts of hate, and stand up to protect the rights, opportunities, physical safety, and mental health of LGBTQ+ people everywhere.”

Read Biden’s full statement below:

Statement by President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. on National Coming Out Day

Today, we celebrate National Coming Out Day and the courage of LGBTQ+ people who live their lives with pride, create community with open arms and hearts, and showcase the strength of being your authentic self. Today and every day, I want every member of the LGBTQ+ community to know that you are loved and accepted just the way you are – regardless of whether or not you’ve come out.

My Administration is committed to ensuring that LGBTQ+ people can live openly, proudly, and freely in every corner of our nation. I am proud to lead an Administration with LGBTQ+ officials serving openly at the highest levels of government — and prouder that together we have made historic progress advancing protections and equal opportunities for the LGBTQ+ community. From acting on Day One to prevent and combat discrimination, to enabling all qualified Americans – including transgender Americans – to serve their country in uniform, to defending the human rights of LGBTQ+ people around the world, my Administration has been clear that we will continue to champion the dignity, equality, and wellbeing of the LGBTQ+ community. 

Despite the extraordinary progress our nation has made, our work to ensure the full promise of equality is not yet done. Anti-LGBTQ+ bills still proliferate in state legislatures. Bullying and harassment — particularly of young transgender Americans and LGBTQ+ people of color — still abounds, diminishing our national character. We must continue to stand together against these acts of hate, and stand up to protect the rights, opportunities, physical safety, and mental health of LGBTQ+ people everywhere. From defeating discriminatory bills to passing the Equality Act, we have more work to do to ensure that every American can live free of fear, harassment, and discrimination because of who they are or whom they love.

To LGBTQ+ people across the country, and especially those who are contemplating coming out: know that you are loved for who you are, you are admired for your courage, and you will have a community — and a nation — to welcome you. My Administration will always have your back, and we will continue fighting for the full measure of equality, dignity, and respect you deserve.

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