The PJ Tatler

Senate Blocks Franken Amendment to Ban Discrimination Against Gay Students

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) said he’s “tremendously disappointed” that the Senate failed to advance his bill to prohibit discrimination in public schools “based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Franken offered his Student Non-Discrimination Act yesterday as an amendment to an education reform bill. It needed 60 votes, and the final tally was 52-45.

Republicans who joined Franken were Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Dean Heller (D-Nev.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), and Rob Portman (R-Ohio). Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) co-sponsored the bill.

Absent for the vote were Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).

Franken has tried to get the bill through since 2010. Under the legislation, bullying of gay students by other students or by school officials would be banned as it is for ethnic and racial groups. For example, a public school wouldn’t be able to prevent a same-sex couple from attending a school dance together.

“The inability to put in place meaningful protections for some of our most vulnerable children is an enormous disservice to LGBT students all across the country who face terrible bullying every day,” Franken said after the vote.

“Right now, there are federal laws on the books to protect kids against discrimination or harassment based on things like gender, race, national origin, and disability. My measure simply would have extended those protections to LGBT kids.”

Franken said his measure is backed up by “staggering statistics: more than 30 percent of LGBT kids report missing a day of school in the previous month because they felt unsafe. Nearly 75 percent of LGBT students say they’ve been verbally harassed at school. And more than 35 percent of LGBT kids report being physically attacked. This bullying cannot continue.”

“We have a responsibility here to protect all our kids,” he added. “Not just as senators, but as adults. And although I’m disappointed with the result today, I’m going to keep fighting to get this measure passed into law.”

Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) has introduced a companion measure in the House. “Unfortunately, because of arcane procedural tactics and the refusal of Congress’s Republican leadership to act, the Student Non-Discrimination Act is not yet the law,” he said.

“No child should have to endure a hostile or discriminatory school environment simply because of who they are or who they are perceived to be, but that is the grim reality facing innumerable students and families throughout the country, and we need to fix it,” Polis added.