Does MA’s Bullying Law Require Schools to Recognize “Categories of Students, Including LGBTQ Students”?

Martha Coakley, Attorney General of Massachusetts

There was great news last week for safe-schools and LGBT-equality advocates in Massachusetts, where the governor signed a measure strengthening the state’s anti-bullying law.

The many advocates who worked for the bill’s passage—including the organization Mass Equality and state Attorney General Martha Coakley—deserve wholehearted thanks and congratulations from those who believe in safe schools for all youth. Still, it’s worth pointing out an inaccuracy that appears in statements issued by the law’s supporters as well as in the media. Some advocates, journalists and bloggers have suggested that the law requires schools to single out specific groups, including LGBTQ students, for special protections. This is incorrect, though I recognize that the law may appear ambiguous on this point, at least at first glance.

Clarifying this issue may help prevent confusion among those who must work to implement the law; it may also help ensure that, moving forward, safe-schools advocates who favor inclusive policies don’t inadvertently feed into anti-LGBT talking points. Click here or on ‘Read More’ to view the full post.

Anti-Transgender Groups Fall Short in Effort to Repeal California’s New Student Equality Law (Updated 2/27/14)

San Franisco City Hall Lit Up in Rainbow Colors

We’ve got great news out of California, where the state has determined that an effort to force a statewide referendum to repeal a new transgender student equality law, AB 1266, has fallen short. According to the California Secretary of State, opponents of the law failed to submit enough valid signatures to require a referendum.

As I’ll explore in a forthcoming update to an earlier post, the battle to protect AB 1266 is not over yet, as anti-transgender groups have (or at least think they have) a few more tricks up their sleeve. But the recent news is undeniably a major victory in the effort to preserve important protections against gender-identity discrimination in California schools. Click here or on ‘Read More’ to view the full post.

What Do Restrictions on “Conversion Therapy” Actually Say?

Washington State Capitol Building

State legislators around the country have increasingly moved to protect youth from a set of dangerous and widely discredited practices known as “conversion therapy,” “reparative therapy,” or “sexual orientation change efforts” (SOCEs). SOCEs aim to eliminate or reduce same-sex attractions; the purpose, in effect, is to “treat” or “cure” homosexuality (and bisexuality), even though same-sex orientation is not an illness.

Media coverage of legislation restricting SOCEs typically has not delved into the specifics of the laws and proposals, likely because many reporters (not to mention many readers) don’t have the patience to weed through the often-dense language of legislation. But advocates for LGBT youth and other opponents of SOCE may benefit from learning more about the details than the mainstream press coverage makes possible.

This post serves a resource and reference to fill some of the gaps in the mainstream reporting. It sets out, in an accessible format, excerpts of the key language from laws in New Jersey and California (which have already approved SOCE restrictions) as well as from bills proposed in Maryland and Washington State. You’ll also find links to the full text of the legislation, along with a brief summary of each bill or law’s history. (A future post will discuss other states’ proposals.) At the end, I’ve posted links to commentary and resources from around the web. Click here or on ‘Read More’ to view the full post.

More Updates to the FAQ Post on California’s New Transgender Student Equality Law

California map in blue

I’ve again updated this post: California’s New Transgender Equality Law & the Effort to Repeal It: Frequently Asked Questions.

The updated version improves the section discussing legal developments outside of California; for example, it better incorporates recent news from Maine, where the Supreme Court ruled in favor of a transgender student in a discrimination case brought by GLAD. The updated version also includes information from a fantastic February 11 post by Luke Brinker of Equality Matters (a project of Media Matters); Brinker’s posts debunks some of the right wing myths and hysteria over California’s new law.


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