By Julie Bolcer
Originally published on Advocate.com August 01 2012 1:47 PM ET
Support for legislation that would provide federal protections against bullying for LGBT students and those perceived to be reached record levels Tuesday when Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina became a co-sponsor. The addition of the Assistant Minority Leader brings the total number of co-sponsors for the Student Non-Discrimination Act (SNDA) to 163 and marks the first time the bill has been endorsed by every member of the House Democratic leadership team, which also includes Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland.
SNDA, first introduced by Rep. Jared Polis of Colorado in the 111th Congress, would establish a comprehensive prohibition in public elementary and secondary schools against discrimination and harassment based on a student’s actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. Senator Al Franken of Minnesota introduced companion legislation in the Senate, where the bill now has 39 other co-sponsors.
Although the legislation has bipartisan support in the Republican-controlled House, it has yet to receive a vote, and movement appears unlikely during the election season. The growth in sponsorship helps to position the measure as a priority and increases the prospects for a hearing, the short-term goal of advocates, in the next Congress. President Obama endorsed SNDA and related legislation, the Safe Schools Improvement Act, in April.
“This support, particularly following the White House endorsement in April, serves to elevate SNDA as a key LGBT legislative goal, and will provide critical momentum in efforts to gain further support, laying a very strong foundation,” said Ian Thompson, legislative representative for the ACLU, in a telephone interview with The Advocate.
The ACLU testified on behalf of SNDA and other proposals this past weekend at the meeting of the Democratic Party’s platform drafting committee in Minneapolis. Congressman Barney Frank confirmed that a marriage equality plank would be in the platform, but details on other items are unavailable. Nearly 90 organizations, including LGBT-specific and allied groups, have partnered to endorse SNDA.
“We're excited that SNDA has received such broad support in the House,” said Chris Fitzgerald, communications director for Congressman Polis, a gay member of the LGBT Equality Caucus, in an e-mailed statement. “Every day people are seeing that every student deserves an educational environment free from bullying. It's heartening to see the outpouring of support for such a common sense bill.