On December 7, 1993, The Boston Globe covered legislation I was working on to protect LGBTQ students in Massachusetts public schools.
More from Doris Sue Wong:
Amid growing awareness of the psychological torment sometimes experienced by gay teenagers, the Senate yesterday gave final approval to a bill prohibiting discrimination in public schools based on sexual orientation.
Weld is expected to sign the legislation making Massachusetts the first state to adopt a gay student rights bill.
This was the first time the legislation, which has been filed for three consecutive years, did not die in the Senate, which enacted it yesterday by a voice vote without debate.
Proponents attributed this year’s success to the organizational strength and persuasive powers of hundreds of gay and straight students who held a string of rallies at the State House and wrote many letters to legislators.
“They made a compelling argument that this was a real problem and not an imagined problem,” said Sen. Robert A. Havern 3d (D-Arlington), a chief sponsor of the bill. “I think people are realizing it is a dilemma.”
In addition, said Havern, the passage of time allowed legislative proponents to convince skeptical colleagues that the measure does not afford gay students any privileges beyond those guaranteed to other students regardless of their race, national origin, sex or religion.
“After a couple of years, the hysteria is removed from it,” said Havern.
The legislation would enable students to file lawsuits if they believe they had been discriminated against in public schools because of their sexual orientation.
But David La Fontaine, political director for the Coalition for Lesbian and Gay Civil Rights, said he hoped above all that the measure would prevent violence and abuse of gay students, which he said has spurred students to leave school or try to take their own lives.
“What we are looking for is equity in the school system. Currently, gay students are being deprived of an education because of pervasive name-calling and abuse. Until schools recognize this, these young people will continue to be driven out”, said La Fontaine.