On October 21, 1993, The Times published “Resistance remains to protecting gay students”, an editorial written by Lisa Kosan in support of The Gay and Lesbian Student Rights Bill, civil rights legislation I was working on at the time to protect LGBT students in Massachusetts public schools
From Editorial, Capital Letters By Lisa Kosan:
BOSTON – Two teen-agers – one in jeans and a blue windbreaker, the other in jeans and a brown shirt – lean over a marble railing here at the Statehouse. They try to get a better view of the speaker one floor below.
They crane their necks, stand on their toes and strain to hear. At the front of the crowd, Lt. Gov Paul Cellucci rallies support for what he calls a vital bill. The house passed legislation earlier this fall. But now it is lodged in the bubbling tar pit called the Massachusetts State Senat, home of the Billy Bulger. standard bearer of the moral-right.
Cellucci’s voice rises and the students, who had been holding hands, applaud wildly. So do several hundred of their peers.
“Every student is entitled to pursue a public education in an environment safe and free of abuse and harassment,” Cellucci says as colorful banners dance in front of him. “But our schools are places of dread and fear and alienation.
“We need to free our schools of hate.”
That hate flows as freely in school as it does down city streets and rural roads. And it is aimed squarely at people like the two teen-aagers at the railing.
That’s because they’re lesbians. They hold hands and kiss and that makes some people want to gag.
But if you could look beyond gender, skin tone, or other defining traits, you see a throng of kids who came to the Statehouse to try to make life better for themselves. Kids, not gay or lesbian kids. Just kids.
They came to lobby on behalf of the Gay and Lesbian Student Rights Bill.
The legislation would prevent public school students from being discriminated against on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, national origin or SEXUAL ORIENTATION.
Those last two words – explosive, bold and scary – have sparked fierce debate under the Golden Dome. We’re talking big-time taboo. An election season nightmare.
It’s more significant to the kids and teachers who rallied here.
“I hope this passes,” said one Belmont High School student with long brown braids. “We really need it.”
Rep. Byron Rushing of Boston filed the legislation 2 1/2 years ago on behalf of gay students. He says it’s all about civil rights/
“This bill will not give gay and lesbian students right,” Rushing told the crowd. “But it will protect those rights they already have.
“You students have these rights not because you are gay or lesbian but because you are human beings.”
Seventeen-year-old [Marsian] De Lellis didn’t feel like a human being at his high school. He had dog droppings thrown at him.
Chris Hannon dropped out of the Catholic high school he attended for two years because he was spit on, called a queer, a faggot and a homo.
“My guidance counselor told me I was too young to know if I was gay and asked if I could act a little less gay,” Hannon said. “I tild her I didn’t think so.”
Students can’t learn in an environment where hatred is tolerated and encouraged. they can’t learn when there is no punishment awaiting the mostly young white men who perpetrate crimes against gays, women, and anyone who is not a young white man.
But the task is great and goes well beyond legislation.
Just ask the youngster who offered a Statehouse tourist a pamphlet on gay student rights. The visitor took one look, threw the paper at the student and screamed that he and everyone “like him” belonged in jail.
The young boy had heard the venomous words before. He could only shrug his shoulders, sigh and walk away.
Lisa Kosan writes for the Ottaway News Service