Groups split over anti-gay bullying legislation for publicly funded schools
In response to the recent youth suicides said to be linked to anti-gay bullying, the Safe Schools Action Network held a rally in Washington Tuesday. Activists want Congress and the President to pass LGBT-inclusive legislation requiring publicly funded schools to address bullying but some groups strongly oppose the effort.
"Schools have an obligation to protect gay and lesbian students," said Lecia Brooks with the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Gay activists and educators marched from Franklin Square to the White House. They remembered each of the teens who recently killed themselves allegedly victims of anti-gay bullying.
"Because if we don't have inclusive safe schools, how are we really giving high quality education to our students?" said Safe Schools Action Network's Shannon Cuttle.
They want Congress to pass legislation banning publicly funded schools from discriminating against students based on sexual orientation or gender identity and requiring them to have LGBT-inclusive bullying prevention programs.
"We're just talking about making sure that all students are safe and welcoming in an affirming environment," explained Cuttle.
Some conservative groups oppose that legislation.
"It carries the implication that if you disapprove of homosexual conduct that is somehow hateful or bigoted and that is a cause of bullying or violence and we categorically reject that accusation," stated Peter S. Sprigg at the Family Research Council.
Sprigg calls the suicides a tragedy but he says this legislation singles out a group for "special protections."
"You address bullying against students who identify as gay the same way you address all bullying. By saying it's unacceptable," stated Sprigg.
But these activists say this is not about promoting the so-called gay agenda. They call it a matter of life and death.
"What we're trying to do is protect the lives of all students and that's simply all we're trying to do," said Brooks.
Even before these recent suicides rallies were planned nationwide Tuesday as part of the "National Safe Schools Day of Action." Now, proponents of the Student Non-Discrimination Act and the Safe Schools Improvement Act hope this media attention will give the issue momentum on Capitol Hill after getting stalled out in sub-committees.
Conservatives say they want to prevent bullying too, just not with this legislation.
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