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Video | Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen speaks for LGBT youths in proposed Student Non-Discrimination Act

News release from the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus:

WASHINGTON, DC – As the House of Representatives considers an education bill, Equality Caucus members from both parties pushed to amend the bill to include lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students. Representative Jared Polis (CO-02) and Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL-27) spoke in Wednesday night’s Rules Committee hearing in support of allowing the Student Non-Discrimination Act (SNDA) to come to a vote on the floor of the House of Representatives as an amendment to H.R. 5, the Student Success Act. The Student Non-Discrimination Act would establish a federal prohibition against bullying students on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity and would hold schools accountable for failing to protect their students.

"Every day, students who are, or are perceived to be, lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) are subjected to pervasive discrimination, which is harmful to both students and our education system,” said Rep. Jared Polis (CO-02). “I am disappointed that we were unable to vote on my amendment, which would have provided protections for LGBT students to ensure that all students have access to public education in a safe environment. I would have hoped that every member in this body would agree that there is increasing bipartisan consensus schools should be a safe place for all students to learn."

“It is my firm conviction that every student deserves the opportunity to attend school without a fear of being targeted for harassment and discrimination simply based on their sexual orientation or gender identity,” said Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL-27). “The Polis amendment, and the Student Non-Discrimination Act legislation upon which it is based, will ensure that all students have access to a safe public education, free from discrimination and harassment, and I am proud to support it.”

Supporters of SNDA have spoken out in the House this week urging leadership to permit a full vote on the floor. On Wednesday, July 17, Reps. Polis and Ros-Lehtinen urged leadership to permit SNDA to proceed to the floor. During Thursday’s debate, Representative Rob Andrews (NJ-01), Representative Barbara Lee (CA-13), and Representative David Cicilline (RI-01) all spoke expressing their disappointment that SNDA was not given a floor vote.

“The principles of nondiscrimination and equality are cornerstones of America’s democracy.  At the center of that guarantee is the belief that every man and woman has the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” said Rep. Rob Andrews (NJ-01).  “This amendment would extend that guarantee to LGBT students who seek to better themselves by pursuing an education, and ensure that they are able to learn in an environment without facing discrimination based on who they are or who they love.”

“I am extremely disappointed that the Student Non-Discrimination Act did not get a vote on the floor today,” said Rep. Barbara Lee (CA-13). “It is unacceptable that anyone would be targeted because of who they are, especially in schools where our students should feel safe and be focused on learning. Passage of SNDA would mark a major step forward in protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students from harassment and bullying.”

“I am deeply disappointed that the House majority leadership denied us the opportunity to improve this legislation on the floor for students who are discriminated against because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity,” said Rep. David Cicilline (RI-01).  “The Student Non-Discrimination Act is an important piece of legislation that would protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students across the country from harassment and bullying, and would hold schools accountable for failing to protect our nation’s children.”

Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) introduced H.R. 1652, the Student Non-Discrimination Act with Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen as its lead Republican co-sponsor. Senator Franken (D-MN) introduced the companion bill to SNDA as S. 1088 in the U.S. Senate. SNDA currently has 155 cosponsors in the House of Representatives.

To watch the full the comments in support of SNDA click here.

Ros-Lehtinen's remarks:

“Throughout the years, much has been achieved to protect kids from the devastating effects of bullying and discrimination. However, one frequently targeted group of students has remained largely overlooked.

LGBT students are particularly vulnerable to harassment and bullying within our education system, and they currently lack the protections that would prohibit this dreadful behavior.

According to the Human Rights Campaign, it is estimated that over 85% of LGBT students report being harassed in school. Bullying can have severely detrimental effects. For one, bullied LGBT students are known to suffer from diminished educational results.

It can also bring health issues, self-inflicted violence and even suicide. It is frightening to learn that many of these individuals feel let down by the very adults who are there to educate and protect them.

A majority of harassed LGBT students do not report incidents to their teachers, believing that little or no action would be taken or fearing that the situation could worsen.

Federal law prohibits discrimination and harassment based on race, gender and religion. Yet, it does nothing to curb discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Currently, Federal law is failing LGBT students.

Discrimination against LGBT students in public schools across this country is an unacceptable daily reality. It is my firm conviction that every student deserves the opportunity to attend school without a fear of being targeted for harassment and discrimination simply based on their sexual orientation.

The Polis amendment, and the Student Non-Discrimination Act legislation it is based on, will ensure that all students have access to a safe public education, free from discrimination and harassment, and I am proud to co-sponsor it.”

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