Three-fifths of LGBT students report feeling unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation
Cosponsors of Defense of Marriage Act repeal produce video for "It Gets Better Project"
Thirteen United States Senators have teamed up to encourage lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender young people not to give up, reassuring them in a video released Wednesday that they are working hard in the Senate to fulfill the promise of equality for all.
The video is part of the It Gets Better Project, which was founded last year after a series of tragic suicides by LGBT youth who were bullied because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The inspiring It Gets Better Project is determined to help LGBT youth see a positive future beyond what is often a difficult adolescence.
A study released by the GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network last year found that nine out of 10 LGBT middle and high school students were harassed at school. Three-fifths reported feeling unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation and one-third reported admitted to skipping a day of school in the previous month because they felt unsafe.
More than 20,000 LGBT adults have produced videos around the "it gets better" message -- a collection that has formed the heart of a global movement of support. President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, the San Francisco Giants and Chicago Cubs, as well as the employees of a host of major companies including Apple, Facebook, and Google, have contributed heartfelt videos to the project.
Featured in the new video, are Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Mark Udall (D-Colo.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.). All are co-sponsors of the Respect for Marriage Act, which was introduced in March to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and allow the federal government to recognize same-sex marriages performed in states where it is already legal.
The video, which runs nearly five minutes, was assembled from individual messages recorded by each Senator over the last four weeks. It is being released to coincide with the end of National LGBT Pride Month, and comes just days after the New York State Legislature made legalized marriage for same-sex couples there.
""It Gets Better' is more than a message," Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.) said. "It's a movement. It Gets Better is telling a whole generation of LGBT youth that they are not wrong just for being who they are and that should not give up. What we wanted to do with this video was to tell those young people that we are working hard in the Senate to try to make it better. It's important they know that they're not alone, that they have friends working for them in Congress and that it will most definitely get better. We're going to make sure of it. I am proud to be one of the senators cosponsoring the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act in the Senate because marriage equality is one of the most important things we can do to make it better for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans."
"The "It Gets Better' project was founded on the simple and powerful truth that no matter how hopeless today's reality may seem, when we don't give up -- when we keep working for a better tomorrow -- it gets better. It's true for any young person who may feel like they are in a hopeless situation and it's true for our country and its struggle for equality," Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said. "Last year's repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell and last week's vote for marriage equality in New York are signs of progress. The "It Gets Better" project is itself a sign of how powerful and compassionate Americans can be when they rally together. Our video is our promise to LGBT youth and anyone else who feels alone in the face of discrimination that we stand with them, that we aren't giving up and that we will keep fighting until it really does get better."
"The old refrain of 'growing up is tough' is simply not enough to explain away the unacceptable bullying and discrimination that LGBT youth have to deal with. I wanted to add my voice to the It Gets Better project because we need to speak louder than the bullies when we tell young people that they are not alone, and we can work together to make it better," Senator Mark Udall (D-Colo.) said. "Last year, I was proud to help lead the fight to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' and this year, 25 senators have already committed to doing the same to the Defense of Marriage Act. That's just the beginning of what we can and will do to make it better. We hope this video will show LGBT youth that when it comes to putting an end to bullying and discrimination, we're all on the same team."
"Martin Luther King, Jr. said the arc of history is long, but it bends in the direction of justice. Last week, my home state of New York took a giant leap in that direction by extending the freedom to marry to all New Yorkers," Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said. "It is an honor to join Senator Coons and so many of my colleagues in unveiling this video. To all the gay teens across the country who grow up witnessing an unequal world: look no further than the Empire State for proof positive that It Gets Better."
"I hope that this this video serves as a reminder to young people in Connecticut and across the country that no matter how tough things may seem, they are not alone -- and it does get better," Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said. "As lawmakers and parents, we can convey no more important message to kids: no matter who you are or whom you love, you are accepted, celebrated, and needed. The It Gets Better Project reassures Americans that the campaign for equality is strong. Recent suicides and staggering figures on bullying should inspire us with a renewed sense of urgency to fulfill the promise of equal treatment for all people. Progress toward equality can never happen fast enough, but it is a cause that I am confident can bridge the divide of partisanship -- and I look forward to finding new allies in this fight.
"Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people deserve to work, worship, and study in a safe environment," Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said. "We've made incredible strides in four decades -- from the Stonewall Uprising to marriage equality in New York -- but we must continue to move closer to fulfilling the promise of equality for all. This is our moment to make it better."
"Throughout my career in the Senate, I have fought to afford all Americans the equal rights they deserve and to make our communities, schools and workplaces more tolerant and peaceful places," Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) said. "I am committed to this effort and will continue fighting to champion and protect the rights of all. Together we will continue to make history, and it will get better."
"The equality movement is growing every day in Illinois and across the United States--it's getting better," Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said. "It's up to all of us to speak out against hate when we see it, and I am proud to join Senator Coons and my Senate colleagues in this important video as we work to eradicate intolerance and bullying in schools." Senator Durbin is the lead sponsor of the Family and Medical Leave Inclusion Act.
"Every American deserves equal treatment under the law," Senator Al Franken (D-Minn.) said. "Minnesota's same-sex couples are as entitled to the right to marry as anyone else and LGBT youth should be able to learn in a bully free environment just like their peers. I was proud to introduce the Student Non-Discrimination Act and will work hard to pass the Respect for Marriage Act. I'm committed to doing whatever I can in the Senate to make things better." Senator Franken is the lead sponsor of the Student Non-Discrimination Act.
"I was proud to join my Senate colleagues to lend our voices to this worthwhile project and let young LGBT people know that Washington is working on equality for all Americans," Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said. "I was also proud to see the San Francisco Giants recently became the first professional sports team to join in this important effort. At the heart of the "It Gets Better' project are the thousands of videos from the president of the United States to your neighbor, who are offering LGBT youth encouragement, advice, compassion and the strength to carry on." Senator Feinstein is the lead sponsor of the Respect for Marriage Act.
"I am proud to be part of the powerful "It Gets Better' movement to support our LGBT youth. Too many kids are forced to endure harassment, bullying, and discrimination just for being who they are, which is completely unacceptable," Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) said. "This project tells LGBT youth not to give up and lets them know that they have dedicated advocates on their side in Washington. New York State has sent a strong message to the rest of the nation in achieving marriage equality, and we will continue the fight in Washington by working to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act."
"It is an honor to stand with my Senate colleagues to convey the important message to LGBT teens that life does get better. Teens across America, gay or straight, deserve to be treated with respect and should seek out help and support if they are being bullied or feel unsafe," Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) said. "New Hampshire has a long history of leadership on issues of civil rights, and I'm proud to be working hard with my Senate colleagues in the fight for equality."
"Few things are lonelier for a child than being the target of persistent bullying, and kids in those dark times need to have faith that it does get better," said Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), who held a Senate field hearing this year in Pawtucket, RI about the dangers of bullying and dating violence. "I applaud itgetsbetter.org for their work, and am proud to join in their efforts."
"We're proud so many elected officials are working to make it better for struggling LGBT youth and hope other leaders from both sides of the aisle will join them," said Scott Zumwalt, a spokesperson for the It Gets Better Project.
Senators Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), both of them also cosponsors of the DOMA repeal, had previously recorded videos for the It Gets Better Project.