By Daniel Reynolds
Members of the House of Representatives are pushing for protections for LGBT youth to be enshrined in federal law as the Student Non-Discrimination Act, proposed as an amendment to the broader Student Success Act currently being discussed in the House.
Politicians from both parties, including Representatives Rob Andrews, Barbara Lee, David Cicilline and the amendment's co-sponsors Jared Polis and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus, voiced their support of the legislation at a Rules Committee hearing on Wednesday night, expressing their frustration that the amendment had not yet been given a vote on the floor.
Polis, justifying the necessity of his amendment, cited the "pervasive discrimination" against LGBT students as well as the systemic harm such abuse would cause to the American education system.
"Every day, students who are, or are perceived to be, lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender are subjected to pervasive discrimination, which is harmful to both students and our education system," Polis said according to a release from the LGBT Equality Caucus. "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."
The bill's Republican co-sponsor, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, also spoke at the hearing, citing the right of "access to a safe public education" for all students as reason for her support.
"Currently, federal law is failing LGBT students," Ros-Lehtinen said. "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 or gender identity. 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."
Both Polis and Ros-Lehtinen expressed disappointment that congressional leaders had not yet given the amendment a floor vote, which they had advocated for earlier this week.