Bay Windows 12/23/93

Marsian De Lellis, Adelaide Goetz, Chris Hannon,
Lauren Davindson, Sarah Lonber-Lew, David La Fontaine

On December 23, 1993, Bay Windows covered the passage of legislation I worked on to protect LGBGTQ students in Massachusetts.

From the Bay Windows

They took it upon themselves, a group of high school students, to ensure passage of a student rights bill for lesbians and gay men like themselves. They lobbied, they called, they even met with Senate President William Bulger. Theirs is one of the successes in 1993 – a year full of crushing losses and calculated wins; of continuing tragedy and hope – despite it all. We could think of no better group to highlight on the cover of our year-in-review issue than the students who represent the next wave of people who will fight for us all

Activists have hailed the newly-signed student gay rights law as one of the most important pieces of pro-gay legislation to come off of Beacon Hill when gay rights law was signed in 1989.

When Gov. William F. Weld signed the bill December 10th, Massachusetts became the first state in the country to protect the rights of gay and lesbian teens against discrimination in admission to public schools and classes.

Gay and lesbian students gathered December 21 at the State House to talk about what the bill means to them, many of the same teenagers who have been telling stories of physical and verbal abuse to their legislators.

Rep. Byron Rushing, one of the bill’s sponsors in the House of Representatives, said he was not surprised at the stories of abuse, but the lack of response by some school administrators to the problem.

“The law is aimed at going after those administrators,” Rushing said. “Public school students are in a unique position. They weren’t protected by the gay rights law because they’re not employed at the school and school isn’t a public accommodation.”

Rushing attributed much of the bill’s success to the student lobbyists who persuaded legislators that the bill was important to their safety.

Gay teens were given a boost earlier this year when the state’s Board of Education backed a list of recommendations from the Governor’s Commission on Gay and Lesbian Youth urging schools to develop policies to prevent harassment, provide sensitivity training for teachers, establish school-based support groups, and give in-school counseling for gay student’s families.

To see those recommendations are met, the governor gave his Commission on Gay and Lesbian Youth $450,000 to provide training sessions at schools across the state.

Six school trainings have taken place so far, with representatives from 67 schools attending, according to Robert Parlin, a history teacher at Newton South High School who leads the sessions.

“The trainings have been focused on creating action in the schools,” Parlin said. “Doing what is necessary to start gay/straight alliances or sensitivity training for faculty.”….

October: Over 300 gay and lesbian students and their supporters gathered for a raucous demonstration in Nurse’s Hall at the Massachusetts State House on October 13 in an attempt to increase support for the student-initiated gay student rights bill.

At the rally, student after student spoke of the harassment they faced at schools because of their sexual orientation. Speakers touted the bill as a way for students to force recalcitrant school districts to deal with the problem…

…Following Months of delays, the Massachusetts House of Representatives and the State Senate gave their final approval to a bill.

On December 6 designed to protect students from discrimination in admittance to public schools and classes.

Weld signed the bill into law on December 10, making Massachusetts the first state in the country to protect gay and lesbian school-age children against discrimination. National and international gay rights supporters have taken a lead from Massachusetts and are now trying to get similar bills started.

Many attribute the bill’s success to teen supporters who rallied and lobbied throughout the summer….

Pictured are, left to right [Marsian] De Lellis, Adelaide Goetz,
Chris Hannon, Lauren Davindson, and Sarah Lonber-Lew.
Also pictured is mentor and lobbying director
for the Coalition for Lesbian and Gay Civil Rights, David La Fontaine