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Gay Lesbian and Bisexual

Kiss-in at the New Chick-fil-A? Maybe Not.

I was driving through my neighborhood over the weekend and I saw that the nearby Denny’s that closed down recently is going to be turned into a Chick-fil-A. I wasn’t surprised to see that the Denny’s closed given how popular the nearby “Gay Denny’s” is.

My initial response was “Eeeewwww.”

I’m not a big fan of fast food so I’m not happy that we’re getting another fast food place in the area, but I was really unhappy about the prospect getting a company with a homophobic reputation in my neighborhood. I wished there was some type of protest we could do to keep them from coming, but given the extent of the construction so far, I don’t think that’s going to happen.

Jamie & Lisa at the Chick-fil-A Kiss-In

Jamie & Lisa at the Chick-fil-A Kiss-In

My next thought was I think I have an obligation to kiss a girl on the new Chick-fil-A’s property when they open. I posted it on my Facebook page, and a friend suggested I play “I Kissed A Girl” on a boom box while I’m doing it. I thought that was pretty awesome, and probably more appropriate for an all-ages audience than the equally awesome “It Gets Better” by Rebecca Drysdale.

I was starting to think having a kiss-in to protest the new Chick-fil-A at 16th Street and Camelback in Phoenix is a really good idea. One of my reporter friends even said she wanted to cover it. I was starting to get kind of excited about this idea when my friend sent me a link to an article that said Chick-fil-A has stopped supporting anti-gay organizations. Wow – they did a really bad job of letting people know that they changed their affiliations.

So maybe we don’t need to have a kiss-in at the new Chick-fil-A. I still don’t support them opening a store in my neighborhood because they either are homophobic and don’t want to broadcast it or they didn’t do their research when they decided where to donate their money.

I’m sure we can find another cause to protest if we need another reason to have a kiss-in.

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Maybe I Gave A Kid Hope Today

ASU Law Students with Senator Kyrsten Sinema

I took a walk on the beach in California today.  When I was about a half mile from our camp, I started to wonder if I should be nervous because I was walking alone and wearing my “Legalize Gay” t-shirt.  I usually walk in the afternoon with my Dad, and I think it’s universally accepted that you never mess with a girl when she’s with her Dad.  I am a feisty person but I’m also small, and there are a lot of people who could take me in a fight.  And unfortunately, discrimination and hate crimes against members of the LGBT community continue to occur.

I started to wonder things like, “Should I be afraid?, ”“What if someone calls me a name?,” and “What if it’s a child?.”  I started to imagine scenarios of what could happen how I should respond, if at all.  I began to admire the strength and courage of the people who advocated for LGBT rights in the 1970’s and ‘80’s.  I’m sure the majority of the people on the beach weren’t concerned about other people’s reactions to their t-shirts.

Then I had a thought: What if there’s a 13 year-old gay kid on the beach who is on vacation from a conservative state or a conservative family, and all they hear is that homosexuals are perverts, sinners, and pedophiles?  What if they know that they’re gay and they have no gay role models or positive messages about homosexuality?  I wonder how good it would be for them to see someone wearing a gay-positive shirt in public without seeming to care about what anyone else said or thought.  Maybe I gave that child hope that they will someday live in a community where they will be accepted just as they are.

Today I was reminded that I have a responsibility to project a positive message to queer youth.  Just as I needed education, guidance, and support in my baby queer years, so do they.  The least I can do is not be afraid or ashamed of who I am.

Maybe I gave a kid hope today.

Or maybe I just took a walk on a beach.

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Discrimination Against GSA in West Bend

I was listening to Dan Savage’s Savage Love Podcast last week and I heard about a sad but inspiring situation in West Bend, Wisconsin.  East and West High Schools has had an unofficial Gay-Straight Alliance for over a decade and is currently being denied the recognition of being an official school group.

Some schools have Gay-Straight Alliances or si...

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Prior to this year, student group recognition was fairly informal, and it appeared that every group that requested recognition received it.  This year a new process was imposed that required a group to show that they have curricular tie, national or state affiliation, student appeal and a volunteer adviser to receive recognition by the school.  The GSA complied with every requirement of the application process and their application was approved by the school district administrators.   All they needed was the approval from the West Bend Board of Education.

The students of the West and East High School GSA did a very ballsy thing – they hired an attorney who assisted them throughout this process.  When the group went before the school board, their attorney warned the board members that legal action for discrimination could result if they denied the group’s request for official recognition.  They walked into that meeting and basically said, “We’ve complied with your requirements.  We know we have rights, and if you deny us our rights, we’re going to sue you.”  I love it!

The school board unfortunately voted against granting the GSA recognition.  Randy Marquardt, president of the board of education, voted against recognition and does not understand the need for the school to recognize the GSA.  He allegedly said the board should not vote in the group’s favor to avoid a threat of legal action.

The GSA complied with the school’s requirements for recognition, and therefore they have earned the right to be an official school group.  The co-presidents of the GSA have filed a federal lawsuit against the West Bend Board of Education for violations of their First Amendment rights and the federal Equal Access Act that grants all non-curriculum student groups equal access if a school recognized at least one non-curriculum student group.  The students claim that they are being denied the privileges afforded to recognized student groups such as using the school’s PA system, posting flyers and posters in the school, using the school’s resources and equipment, raising funds for group activities, and being included in the school yearbook.

These students should be applauded for their determination and for refusing to sit in the back of the proverbial bus.  Their group’s mission is “to combat bullying and harassment through education and advocacy and to provide an emotionally and physically healing learning environment for people of all gender and sexual orientations.”  The GSA has only asked for a declaration that the board of education violated rights, a court order requiring the school to recognize the GSA as student group, less than $20 of damages and attorneys’ fees.  They are not asking for anything spectacular, only for what is fair.

To the students in West Bend, keep fighting the good fight. I was pleased to hear that the community for the most part seems to support you.  Please let us know what we can do to continue to support you and your cause.

If you want to send Randy Marquardt a message urging him to allow the GSA to be an officially recognized student group, you can email him at rmarquardt@west-bend.k12.wi.us or call him at 262-306-2601.

UPDATE: On Monday, June 13, 2011, in a re-vote the West Bend School Board approved the request for an official GSA at West Bend High School.  It appears that the school board caved because they were advised that if they fought the lawsuit filed against them, that they would lose.  Randy Marquardt had the audacity to say that the board was bullied by the GSA and that he still does not approve of giving the group recognition as a student club.  Regardless of why the board approved the GSA, it was the right thing to do.  Congratulations kids!

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Heartbreak of Cyberbullying

One of the legal issues that pulls at my heart strings is cyberbullying, especially when it involves kids.  It’s hard enough to be a young person when you don’t have to worry about being taunted and threatened every day.  With regular bullying, students dread going to school.  With cyberbullying, students can be constantly harassed by their peers via emails, text messages, or worse – a website dedicated to torturing them. I was cyberharassed at school last year, and it was awful.  For the first time ever, I was afraid to go to school, and I was 30 years old with the support of family, friends, and my school’s administration in my corner.  I can’t image what it would be like to go through the same thing as a kid and alone.

I hope with my law degree, I can help students and schools combat and prevent the bullying of children.  My heart breaks every time I hear about another student taking their own life, in part because of bullying.

Big rainbow flag hanging on side of building

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Arizona has a law that requires schools to have policies and procedures in place regarding harassment, intimidation, and bullying on school property, buses, bus stops, and at school sponsored events.  Schools must investigate suspected bullying and disciplinary procedures for those who are found guilty.  A revision to this law was proposed in February 2011 – SB 1549.  This law would expand harassment to include behaviors involving school computers, networks, forums, and mailing lists.  I think this is a good start, but I wish it would be expanded to specifically include any harassment that occurs on school grounds or at a school sponsored event that occurs via any electronic means.  This could expand the definition of harassment to include text messages and any communication that occurs via the internet on a school computer or a student’s smartphone that is present on school property.

Central High School in Phoenix was kind enough to send me their current policies and procedures for addressing bullying and harassment.  Their definitions for harassment and bullying seem to encompass all the behaviors that should be prevented in schools.  I was also pleased to see that their rules already address cyberbullying and that the procedures include involving the police if warranted.  It suggests that they take bullying seriously and address it as such.

I would have liked to have seen their definition of harassment specifically include harassment based on sexual orientation.  Given that gay teens are much more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual counterparts, schools have an obligation to keep a special eye out of these kids.

Unfortunately, a rule is worthless unless it is enforced.  Historically, teachers at schools across the nation have turned a blind eye to bullying or tell gay kids to expect harassment if they’re going to act like sissies.  I feel horrible for any student who is legally obligated to attend school where they are harassed on a daily basis, with disciplinary system in place that isn’t being utilized, and an administration that turns a blind eye to these kids’ pain.  I hope that there’s something I can do after graduation to address these problems, whether it’s by empowering school administrations to support these kids or helping to protect these kids who cannot protect themselves.

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National Coming Out Day Rant

October 11th is National Coming Out Day.  In honor of this holiday, I’ll gladly share that I’m bisexual.  I hope that’s not an issue for you.  If it is, you have an issue.

For anyone who doesn’t understand bisexuality, it means I am attracted to both genders.  That doesn’t mean that I’m a slut or that I have to date both men and women to be happy.  It simply means that a person’s gender isn’t a deal-breaker when I’m deciding who I want to date.

Rainbow flag flapping in the wind with blue sk...
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I love holidays in general, but this holiday makes me a little sad because a person’s sexuality is still an ongoing issue.   We have teens committing suicide left and right because of it.  I mean, who cares who someone falls in love with?  I’m all for consenting adults falling in love.  I don’t care what they do behind closed doors.  If you don’t want to watch two people holding hands or kissing in public, don’t look.  I do that all the time with I see people, usually a hetero couple, gratuitously sucking face.

I tend to laugh at homophobic people’s reasons for being homophobic.  The best ones usually come from straight guys who say, “I don’t want some dude hitting on me.”  I generally have two responses for this guy:

  1. What person, gay or straight, is going to be attracted to you and your narrow mind?
  2. You should be flattered that any person is attracted to you.  If you’re secure in who you are, you should be able to handle that person’s advances with class if you do not reciprocate their feelings.

I’m all for the government giving the same rights to any couple.  If the United States is going to give married heteros certain rights, they should give the married homos the same rights.  I don’t care what they call it, whether it’s “marriage” or “civil union,” but they have to use the same term for straight and gay unions.

Given the state of the economy, I’d expect the government to support gay marriage.  Our country will get back on track faster if we’re spending money.  Do you know how much it costs to get married?  There are the clothes, the rings, the flowers, the reception, the travel expenses, and the honeymoon for starters.  And unfortunately, after the wedding, at least half of these couples will eventually get divorces, which includes legal expenses, buying and selling property, and the post-divorce party.  All of this is good for business.

So Happy National Coming Out Day one and all.  To the baby gays out there, I hope your coming out process has been supported by your loved ones, and if it hasn’t, know that support is available.  If other people’s non-heterosexuality is an issue for you, please get over it.  It’s not a big deal.

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