A Major Gay Rights Bill Was Just Killed, Just In Case You Thought Marriage Equality Meant The Fight Was Over
In a move Tuesday night that proved why the fight for LGBT rights can't end with marriage equality, Senate Republicans killed a measure to prevent anti-LGBT bullying in public schools, according to MSNBC. In the end, the vote was 52-45, but it needed at least 60 votes to advance. All of the bill's 45 opponents were Republicans, and I wish I could be as shocked as I am annoyed.
Sen. Al Franken, the Minnesota Democrat behind the legislation, has introduced the Student Non-Discrimination Act in every congressional session for the past five years, according to Mother Jones. It's a simple measure that would prohibit harassment and discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation, and it's similar to policies that are already in place to prevent discrimination for sex, religion, or race. The bill aimed to prevent student-on-student harassment, but it also sought to prevent teachers from treating LGBT students differently based on their identities.
Franken told Mother Jones that students who bullied others based on their sexual identity or gender identification would be told not to by teachers, who are expected to intervene, and if the bullying continued, the students would "face disciplinary action just like a kid who bullies kids because they're black, or because they're Asian, or because they have a disability." Prior to the vote, Franken told Mother Jones he was optimistic about the legislation passing, since we already have similar legislation in place for adults in the workplace:
In the last Congress we got 64 votes in the Senate for ENDA — that's the Employment Non-Discrimination Act — and that is basically setting the same rights to adults that here we're trying to extend to kids. This, to me, is a lower bar. I think that we can do this. I think that it will be a close vote, the make-up of the Senate has changed since the last Senate, but I don't quite understand why my colleagues would not extend these rights to children.
Unfortunately, Franken's colleagues didn't extend those rights to children. The vote proves that the real fight for LGBT rights was only brought to better light by the Supreme Court decision to legalize marriage in all 50 states. There is still no federal hate crime legislation that protects LGBT people as a class under all state hate crime laws. Rather, each state can decide what parts of the federal hate crime law — which lists gender identity and sexual orientation as potential motivators for hate crimes — it wants to use when prosecuting crimes where hate against a specific group was a motivating factor, according to National Journal.
Even worse, Republican politicians with a lot of power and public visibility are still speaking about LGBT people in harmful ways. This week, the executive committee of the Boy Scouts of America unanimously approved a resolution “that would end the organization’s blanket ban on gay adult leaders and let scout units set their own policy on the issue," according to MSNBC. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who just announced his candidacy for president under the Republican party, said he disapproves of the policy. He said the previous policy "protected children and advanced Scout values," according to MSNBC.
Those kinds of comments and the move by Republican Senators to reject such an important bill for LGBT youth show just why the Supreme Court decision was much smaller than it first seemed.
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