In Newsweekly 10/11/93

On October 11th, 1993, I wrote an op-ed piece for In Newsweekly in support of the Gay and Lesbian Student Rights Bill.

More from the Op-ed

Remember back in high school – were you called a “fag” in gym class? Did people say you were a “dyke” because you didn’t go to the prom? Perhaps your guidance counselor outed you to your parents. Maybe you stopped going to school altogether because you kept getting beat up. What can you do about this kind of harassment now?

Show that you and the community cares about younger lesbians, gays and bisexuals by supporting the Gay and Lesbian Student Rights Bill and attending the rally and lobby day October 13 and 20.

The Coalition for Lesbian and Gay Civil Rights has mobilized around the passage of H.3353, the Gay and Lesbian Student Rights Bill. If passed, this bill would prohibit discrimination against gay, lesbian and bi students. Currently, Massachusetts law prohibits discrimination in terms of admission, advantages, privileges and courses of study on the basis of race, sex, color, religion and national origin. H.3353 would add “sexual orientation” to the list of protected classes.

It is necessary to add “sexual orientation” to this list because of the repeat pattern of abuse that lesbian and gay students face on a daily basis. As a member of BAGLY (the Boston Alliance of Gay and Lesbian Youth) for over a year, I have met students who have been threatened, had their belongings vandalized and have even been physically attacked.

Massachusetts schools are not safe for lesbian and gay students. As a result, 27% of all lesbian and gay students drop out of school and account for 30% of all youth suicides. A survey by the Governor’s Commission on Gay and Lesbian Youth of 400 students at Lincoln-Sudbury High School found that 97% of students heard homophobic remarks in school. Usually, homophobic slurs go unchallenged. Faculty pretend not to hear these statements and just stand by. In some cases, I have witnessed teachers encouraging this behavior. In addition, students feel pressured to prove their heterosexuality. In such an atmosphere, no students are safe.

Since the Governor’s Commission has released several recommendations in Making Schools Safe for Gay and Lesbian Youth, the Student Rights BIll would provide a legal backing for schools to implement them.  Gay and lesbian students would be able to sue school systems that refused to protect them. Currently, gay and lesbian students have limited legal rights, since the 1988 Gay Rights Bill does not cover people under 18 and public institutions.

The Coalition for Lesbian and Gay Civil Rights is organizing a number of events to make sure this bill will be passed. There will be a large rally at Nurses Hall in the State House on Oct. 13 [1993] at 4:00PM, at which Lt. Gov. Paul Cellucci will be among the featured speakers. We are expecting over 1,000 to attend. This will be an exciting and colorful event with youth groups and supporting groups showing their banners.

The following week, Oct. 20 from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m., the Coalition is organizing a lobby day that will meet again at Nurses Hall. People will scatter in teams on the basis of geographical location and have a chance to meet with their senators about the bill.  The Coalition strongly encourages concerned students, teachers, parents, friends and allies from across the state to attend these two events. The more support and attention the bill gets, the faster it will pass the House and move to the floor of the Senate. The Gay and Lesbian Student Rights Bill  will pass if enough people will come to these events.

Rep. Byron Rushing (D-Boston) is the chief house sponsor and Sen. Robert Havern (D-Arlington) is the chief Senate supporter. In addition, Gov. Weld has pledged to sign the bill if it passes the Senate. In addition, a number of youth groups, high school groups, community groups and political organizations have endorsed the bill and rally.

Try to think back to your high school years, when a bill like this could have made a difference in your life. With your help, the Gay and Lesbian Student Rights Bill will be a major step forward for younger people and the community.