Nearly five years ago, September 2010, there was a rash of LGBTQ youth suicides as a result of bullying — Tyler Clementi, Billy Lucas, Seth Walsh, Asher Brown, to name a few — and so, every September, as our youth starts back to school, many start back to being bullied again.
And while things have changed for the better since 2010—we’ve seen gays and lesbians being allowed to serve openly in the military, we’ve won marriage equality—we still have a way to go before we are fully accepted, though even I know we’ll never be completely accepted by all.
And that also applies to our youth, who have far less protections than we adults have, and who, may times, suffer far worse fates at the hands of haters than adults; and that’s why LGBTQ students need protection from discrimination and bullying.
Al Franken, the Democratic Senator from Minnesota, delivered a powerful address to his colleagues about anti-LGBT bullying and discrimination, speaking about Seth Walsh, a gay teen, one of those who took their own lives in September 2010:
“By seventh grade, taunts and verbal abuse were a constant part of Seth’s day. Students called him faggot and queer. He was afraid to use the restroom or to be in the boys’ locker room before gym class. [In] September of 2010, Seth hanged himself from a tree in his family’s backyard. He was 13. Seth left a note expressing his love for family and friends but also his anger at the school.”
Franken then introduced an amendment attached to a bill updating No Child Left Behind laws that would provide LGBTQ youth the same legal remedies available to other kids under federal civil rights laws:
“If a black child was referred to by a racial slur at school, would we say kids will be kids? If a Jewish student got beat up because he wore a yarmulke to school, would we wave it off and say boys will be boys? If a shop teacher told a female student she didn’t belong in his class, would we be fine if the school just looked the other way? No, we would not. In fact, there are federal civil rights laws that are specifically designed to stop this kind of conduct.”
And so Senator Franken asked his colleagues to stand up for LGBTQ youth and reduce bullying, by voting for a bill to "end discrimination based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity in public schools."
And our Senate said, resoundingly, “No.”
Nearly every single Republican voted to let LGBTQ youth continue to endure bullying and taunts and harassment simply for being gay, or even being perceived to be gay; only six Republican Senators voted for Senator Franken's amendment.
Tennessee Republican Senator Lamar Alexander lead the charge in voting ‘No’ to the amendment because he fears it would bring “costly lawsuits” which just proves that Alexander, and all those other Republicans care more about money that LGBTQ youth.
And so here’s a list of all U.S. Senators who voted ‘No’ and please note that they are all Republicans:
And here are the Senators who voted to protect LGBTQ youth from bullying:
Not voting were U.S. Republican Senators and 2016 presidential candidates Lindsey Graham and Marco Rubio. Also not voting was U.S. Democratic Senator Bill Nelson, who has been out after undergoing cancer surgery Monday.
If you like, and perhaps you should, find your Senator on this list, and if they voted ‘No’ maybe let them know that you find their actions unconscionable; you find it disgusting that gay lives matter less than money.
And, if you’re lucky enough to have a Senator vote ‘Yes’ let them know you appreciate their efforts and ask them to continue to fight to protect LGBTQ youth.
The march does go on ….