In November 1993 InNewsweekly ran a story on legislation I was advocating for to protect LGBTQ students in Massachusetts public schools. At the time, the bill was stuck in the Senate’s third reading committee, where it stayed for a month.
More from Ed Boyce:
Boston – Gay youth advocates have become concerned over the fate of the Gay and Lesbian Students Rights Bill (H.3353) because it was not released out of the State Senate Committee on Third Reading as had been expected last week. Aides to Third Reading Committee Chair Tom Norton (D-Fall River) had told both activists and reporters that the bill was to be released last Monday or Wednesday, but now activists say the committee is being evasive on the issue.
“This is a committee that is chaired by Thom Norton, who strongly opposes the bill,” said LaFontaine, Political Director of the Coalition for Lesbian and Gay Civil Rights. “We lost the Gay Rights Bill in 1987 because it got stuck in the Third Reading Committee. There is a danger of the same thing happening because there are only a few more weeks in the legislative session, and the Senate won’t be meeting that many more times.
“They won’t make any kind of firm commitment about releasing the bill,” said LaFontaine.
LaFontaine told IN that his group along with gay and lesbian youth activists from across the state, are not waiting before stepping up pressure to get the bill moved out of committee and back for a final vote on the Senate floor.
“We’re getting calls and letters to (Sen. Norton) from all over the state,” said LaFontaine. “It would be tragic to lose the bill at this point. So many students have lobbied and rallied at the State House for this.”
LaFontaine told IN that his group is thinking about having one of the bill’s cosponsors make a “discharge motion” on the Senate Floor to release the bill from committee, which would require two-thirds vote of the entire Senate. While the bill has already received floor votes with more than a two-thirds majority in favor, such a vote would be risky, according to LaFontaine, because “It would be a direct challenge to (Senate President William) Bulger’s (D-South Boston) leadership.”
LaFontaine said that if the bill still seems stalled by later this week, discharge motions will be introduced nevertheless because of the risk of losing time in the legislative calendar. LaFontaine said that it is urgent that the bill be passed this year because right wing religious groups are planning on opposing sensitivity training programs for teachers and administrators being conducted around the state by the Governor’s Commission on Lesbian and Gay Youth, which is also chaired by LaFontaine.
“We need to pass a law protecting gay and lesbian students so that when the right wing attacks the school training we’re doing, we’ll have a foundation of legislative and legal support,” said LaFontaine.