Clearly showing that last month’s Supreme Court decision left a long way to go on LGBTQ rights, the Senate voted down a bill Tuesday that would have banned discrimination and bullying in K-12 public schools based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
The proposal, known as the Student Non-Discrimination Act, would have extended the same protections that students receive for race, national origin, sex, and disability. School officials wouldn’t be able to ban gay students from bringing same-sex couples to prom, for example, or stand by while they were bullied.
Fifty-two senators voted in favor of the bill; 45 voted against (all Republican), leaving the bill short of the Senate’s 60-vote mark. In a passionate senate floor speech, Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), the bill’s sponsor, said the bullying of LGBTQ kids in schools has reached “epidemic” levels.
“If a black child was referred to by a racial slur at school, would we say kids will be kids?” he asked, standing next to a photos of three teens who committed suicide over the last few years after facing relentless bullying. “This amendment would simply provide LGBT kids with the same legal remedies available to other kids under our federal civil rights laws.”
According to a study last year by the advocacy group GLSEN, 74 percent of LGBTQ students were verbally harassed because of their sexual orientation, and 55 percent because of their gender expression. The harassment affected their grades and mental health, the study said.
The non-discrimination bill’s opponents said it could lead to costly lawsuits and that local school districts should have power to make their own regulations.