Ros-Lehtinen, Polis
Bill to Protect LGBT Students Introduced in Congress

By Trudy Ring

Originally published on Advocate.com April 19 2013 12:31 PM ET

Just in time for today’s Day of Silence, a national observance meant to counter anti-LGBT bullying and other discrimination in schools, two members of Congress have introduced legislation that would protect young people against such mistreatment.

Representatives Jared Polis, a gay Democrat from Colorado, and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican from Florida, Thursday introduced the Student Non-Discrimination Act, which would prohibit schools that receive public funding from discriminating against LGBT youth.

“Schools should be places where our kids can learn and thrive, and that are free from persecution and harassment,” Ros-Lehtinen told The Miami Herald. “LGBT students are often verbally harassed due to their sexual orientation. It is important that we strive to make sure that LGBT students enjoy safety as all children do.” Ros-Lehtinen, who has a transgender son, is a rare LGBT ally among Republicans.

“We hope that every legislator, whether they’re Democrat or Republican can look at this bill in a sensible way and realize that this should be a class of folks that need protection,” she said. “Discrimination against LGBT students in public schools across this country is an unacceptable but daily reality.” The measure has more than 100 cosponsors, the Herald notes.

Polis had tried to pass similar legislation in 2011. He pointed out that surveys have indicated as many as 80% of LGBT students experience harassment in school because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. “We need to protect kids at school regardless of what adults think about the different ways that people live their lives,” he told the Herald.