IN Newsweekly 9/20/93, Boston (activism, press)

The following is from the September 20th, 1993 edition of In Newsweekly,  “Gay and lesbian youth to hold rally on Beacon Hill – Call goes out to come out October 13 in support of student rights bill” by Trixi Burke. The article is about my involvement moving forward the Massachusetts Gay and Lesbian Student Rights Law.

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1993, photo, Trixi Burke

Why after the State Board of Education accepted most of the recommendations of the Governor’s Commission on Gay and Lesbian Youth is the Coalition for Lesbian and Gay Civil Rights holding a rally on Beacon Hill for a gay and lesbian student rights bill?

“The fundamental rights of gay and lesbian students to a public school education free of harassment and discrimination, needs to be protected by Massachusetts law,” explained David LaFontaine, Political Director of the Coalition.

The rally, which will be held October 13 at 4 p.m. in Nurses Hall at the State House, is being called to urge the Massachusetts Legislature to pass H.3353, the Gay and Lesbian Student Rights Bill.

Massachusetts law currently protects students against discrimination in terms of admission to public school or access to school courses and activities on the basis of race, creed, color, sex, religion, and national origin. H. 3353, if passed will add sexual orientation to the protected classes.

The bill is being co-sponsored by forty-one legislators, with State Representative Byron Rushing and State Senator Robert Havern as its chief sponsors, stands a good chance of being killed in committee if there is not enough media attention or focus placed on it, explained LaFontaine.

LaFontaine is confident that the support of a significant number of senators from across the state will help the bill prevail in the senate.

We have the support of the Governor, explained Lafontaine, who also pointed to the support from the Lt. Gov. Paul Cellucci who will speak at the rally in favor of the bill’s passage.

“We plan on holding trainings for students to learn how to effectively lobby the State Representatives and Senators for their pledged support of the bill. That training will take place on September 28,” said LaFontaine. For further information concerning the training session for the lobby day, please call (617) 828-3039.

In Newsweekly met with three students who are working on the Rally Planning Committee, [Marsian] De Lellis, a 17-year old student from Belmont, Philip Oteri, a 16 year-old from Tewksbury and Chris Hannon, a 16 year-old and former student at Boston College High School.

Hannon told IN Newsweekly that while attending BC High School, he had received verbal threats and actual death threats.

“The death threats were notes left in my locker,” Hannon said, adding that one not said “Get out of this school or you’ll burn.”

Hannon said he went to a teacher for help and that the teacher took the threatening note and tore it into pieces in front of him and warned him “to forget about it,” and implied that he should not mention it to anyone.

Hannon went to the school administration who responded to Hannon’s request to attend school without the fear or threat of violence or death by telling him they could not guarantee his safety and he would be better off leaving the school of 5,000 students. Since then, Hannon has done some home study but left BC High School and has not made arrangements to attend school yet this fall.

“With the Student Rights Bill, Chris could sue that school and demand that they make the classrooms and hallways safe for him or that they provide the tuition so that Chris can attend another school where he would be able to get an education free from harassment and violence,” LaFontaine explained.

Hannon, Oteri and De Lellis told In Newsweekly they are looking forward to the rally on October 13th and would like to see representatives from every high school, college and university attend it.

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“It feels good that we’re doing something that’s directly helping,” said Oteri. “We are not the cause of the month.”

“Even when I was stuffing envelopes the other day, I felt like I was on the front line of the civil rights movement,” said De Lellis.

“These youth are taking the opportunity to have a voice in state government. That’s not something most youth get to do,” said LaFontaine. “Gay and lesbian youth who are working toward civil rights, whether setting up gay and straight alliances in their schools or coming to the rally are setting an example. They are good role models to all teens, not just gay ones,” LaFontaine said.