Illinois U.S. Senators Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk, along with several members of the Illinois U.S. House delegation have co-sponsored the recently introduced Student Non-Discrimination Act.


The Act was introduced earlier this week in the U.S. Senate as an amendment to a comprehensive federal education bill, and a version was also introduced in the U.S. House earlier this year. It protects lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth from harassment and bullying in schools.


Sen. Durbin and most of the Democratic Congressional delegation from Illinois are cosponsors of the measure. Sen. Kirk, also signed up as cosponsor, becoming the first Republican in the U.S. Senate to support the anti-bullying measure.


“We thank Senators Kirk and Durbin and the cosponsoring members from our state’s U.S. House delegation for championing the right of LGBT students to a safe and rewarding educational experience, " said Bernard Cherkasov, CEO of Equality Illinois, the state’s oldest and largest advocacy organization for LGBT individuals. "We also applaud Senator Kirk for leading the way in his caucus and being the first Republican U.S. Senator to cosponsor the Act.”

 

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Currently, federal law prohibits discrimination based on a person's race, color, national origin, disability, or sex. No such federal protections exist for LGBT students.


LGBT students face pervasive discrimination, including harassment, bullying, and violence. In fact, LGBT youth identify bullying and harassment as primary problems in their lives. These concerns rob them of a rewarding educational experience. Further, LGBT young people who experience rejection and social stigmatization are more likely to have high levels of depression, more likely to engage in substance abuse, and more likely to attempt suicide.


U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) introduced the Student Non-Discrimination Act as an amendment to the Every Child Achieves Act, an update of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Sen. Franken had previously introduced the Act as a stand-alone bill in early 2015.


U.S. Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) also introduced the Student Non-Discrimination Act in the U.S. House of Representatives. Eight Democratic members of Illinois’ U.S. House delegation–U.S. Reps. Jan Schakowsky, Mike Quigley, Bobby Rush, Cheri Bustos, Tammy Duckworth, Luis Gutierrez, Robin Kelly, and Bill Foster–are cosponsors of the legislation.


“We ask the other two Illinois Democrats–Reps. Dan Lipinski and Danny Davis–and seven Republican Illinois members of Congress to support the Student Non-Discrimination Act. In particular, we call upon the Republican members of Congress to follow Senator Kirk’s lead, protect LGBT students, and cosponsor the Act,” Cherkasov said.

 

UPDATE: The U.S. Senate failed to adopt the Student Non-Discrimination Act, July 14, which would establish federal prohibitions against the discrimination and bullying of LGBT students. The vote was 52-45, which was eight votes short of the 60 votes required for adoption of the Act.

 

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