Friday, April 23, 2010

Obama Omits Gays from Safe-Schools Reform;
HRC Sees No Problem

(Dr. Jill Biden, wife of the Vice President, helps raise funds for GLSEN in May 2009.)

The Bay Area Reporter this week published a story by Dana Rudolph, headlined "Bullying of LGBT youth not a priority, which discusses two efforts at the federal level to help gay students. The first is legislation introduced a year ago:

A bill introduced in May 2009 by Representative Linda Sanchez (D-California) would provide such anti-bullying measures. Known as the Safe Schools Improvement Act [SSIA], it would require schools that receive federal funds to implement and report on anti-bullying programs. It would define bullying as hostile conduct based on someone's actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity, among other attributes. [...]

A spokesman for GLSEN, Daryl Presgraves, said in an interview that the SSIA is "our biggest priority right now on a federal level." [...]

Sounds like an important measure that could directly help diminish harassment of gay kids in schools, something a liberal, Democratic President would fully support, right? Not so fast:

But when Obama released his Blueprint for Reform of No Child Left Behind, through a DOE document that details the administration's proposal, it contained no mention of the provisions of the SSIA. [...]

The personal security of gay youth was omitted from the blueprint, because of our fierce advocate in the Oval Office. And what about Obama getting behind another Act that potentially could assist gay kids?

[Obama's blueprint] also included no mention of the Student Non-Discrimination Act, a bill introduced by Representative Jared Polis (D-Colorado) in January. The non-discrimination act would prohibit discrimination – including harassment – on the basis of real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity in any program or activity receiving federal funds. [...]

Some background on what an openly gay White House press officer had to say in February about the Act, is in order. From Fox News:

Asked if the Obama administration supports the measure, White House spokesman Shin Inouye said: "While we have not reviewed this specific legislation, the President believes that every child should learn in a safe and secure school environment."

The message, right out the gate for the Polis measure, is that the White House doesn't have the time nor the interest to read the legislation, much less lift a finger to advance it. Nice to know what he believes, but how about Obama spending capital to create that environment for gay students?

Surely the nicely compensated professional homosexual lobbyists in Washington will waste no time deploring the invisibility of safety matters for gay youth in the President's educational reforms. Not exactly:

Despite the absence of safe-schools provisions in Obama's proposal, GLSEN spokesman Presgraves said he is optimistic.

"Obviously, this is just a blueprint," he explained. "As the 'Blueprint' will continue to expand and become the actual language for the reauthorization, at that point is when we'll definitely do everything we can to ensure that [the Sanchez and Polis bills'] language are part of the reauthorization." [...]

This fool may be optimistic, and that is what we can expected from the co-opted GLSEN folks, thanks to the fact that their former leader, the silent and invisible Kevin Jennings, has a cushy federal appointment. No way can we expect this org to forcefully put our educational concerns first, even as more gay kids commit suicide driven by harassment in school.GLSEN is one more gay org out for access, not advancement at any cost.

The GLSEN executive director, Eliza Byard, is one more gay leader attending functions at the White House, and I don't expect her org to jeopardize that access, by criticizing the administration. Such criticism could also cost GLSEN the next time it wants Dr. Jill Biden to address the crowd at their gala fundraiser.

Don't expect the HRC to kick Obama's butt over the omissions either. Back to the BAR story:

Brian Moulton, chief legislative counsel for the Human Rights Campaign, agreed.

"Certainly, would it be preferable for there to be a strong, explicit signal going into this process from the White House? Sure," he said. "But I don't know that we should see this as a problem right out the gate." [...]

According to visitor logs, Moulton visited the White House for four meetings last year. He's probably been back in the new year, but the White House has yet to release visitor logs for 2010. Regardless, I wouldn't expectHRC's top legal lobbyist to say a word that might curtail or end his access to the White House, all because Obama is yet again proving he is not our fierce advocate for gay youth safety.

Kudos to the BAR and writer Dana Rudolph for an enlightening piece about Gay Inc business as usual in Washington.

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