Virginia Legislator to Consider LGBT Adoption Ban

Virginia legislators are poised to battle adoption discrimination for LGBT people. According to the Associated Press, Sen. Adam Ebbin, D-Alexandria, introduced a bill that would prohibit Virginia from contracting with or funding agencies that discriminate against children or otherwise eligible prospective foster or adoptive parents solely on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, family status, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

Ebbin’s legislation comes on the heels of the removal of protections against discrimination based on personal factors by the Virginia Board of Social Services. They are set to take effect May 1.

“Adoption is a public act that goes through state courts, and no government agent should engage in discrimination,” Ebbin told the AP. He also said that he knows gay and lesbian parents and that they are some of the “best parents [he] knows.”

Sen. Jeffrey McWaters, R-Virginia Beach, and Del. Todd Gilbert , R-Woodstock, have also introduced “conscience clause” bills that would reinforce the Department of Social Services regulations and protect private, faith-based child-placement agencies.

“We just want to ensure that people can continue to abide by their religious beliefs and continue to provide services consistent with those beliefs,” Gilbert told the AP.

He went on to state that his bill “doesn’t do anything but protect those with religious concerns” and argues that prospective parents have “ample opportunities to work with other organizations that have different religious concerns.”

Southern Poverty Law Center Demands End of LGBT Discrimination in Schools

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) is demanding that Alabama’s Tuscaloosa County School System end its policy banning same-sex couples from attending prom and to stop censorship of speech supporting LGBT rights.

A letter sent on January 25 to Brookwood High School (BHS), the Tuscaloosa County School System superintendent, and the county’s school board warned that school officials should respect the students’ constitutional rights or face a federal lawsuit. The letter was sent on behalf of BHS student Elizabeth Garrett who was forced by a school administrator to remove her sweatshirt which bore an expression of acceptance of gay people.

“At Brookwood, like in too many Alabama schools, gay students and those perceived as gay face unfair treatment,” said Sam Wolfe, an SPLC attorney. “Too often, gay students also face serious harassment at school. No student should be singled out for unfair treatment or be denied their basic rights at school.”

The SPLC gives the school district until Feb. 1 to stop its censorship of speech supportive of LGBT people and its prohibition against same-sex couples at the prom. If the school district does not comply with those demands, the SPLC will file a federal lawsuit seeking an injunction, damages and attorneys’ fees.

Citing the First and 14th amendments, as well as recent federal court cases, the SPLC argues that baring same-sex couples from attending school functions, and students from wearing clothing expressing LGBT support, are unconstitutional acts.

The letter also stated that BHS has a “duty” to admonish students who react disruptively to Garrett’s sweatshirt or any same-sex couple at the prom.

GLSEN Reports Bullying in Schools Not Getting Better

A study released by the Gay Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) reports that homophobia and bullying in schools is prevalent as early as kindergarten. Moreover, the majority of teachers feel unequipped to handle LGBT questions in the classroom.

The study, “Playgrounds and Prejudice: Elementary School Climate in the United States,” finds that the most common forms of biased language in elementary schools, heard regularly by both students and teachers, is use of the word “gay” as a pejorative.

Additionally, 75 precent of students reported that at school they are called names, made fun of or bullied with at least some regularity. Most commonly this is because of students’ looks or body size, followed by not being good at sports, how well they do at schoolwork, not conforming to traditional gender norms/roles, or because other people think they’re gay.

Other key findings from the report:

  • Gender nonconforming students are less likely than other students to feel very safe at school, and are more likely than others to indicate they sometimes do not want to go to school because they feel unsafe or afraid.
  • Only a third of teachers report having personally engaged in efforts to create a safe and supportive classroom environment for gender nonconforming students.
  • Less than half of teachers indicate that they feel comfortable responding to questions from their students about gay, lesbian, or bisexual people. There was a lower level of comfort found among teachers responding to questions from their students about transgender people.

“Playgrounds and Prejudice: Elementary School Climate in the United States” can be found at: glsen.org/playgroundsandprejudice.

Colorado Governor: “Pass Civil Unions”

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper has declared his support of civil unions. In his State of the State address on January 12, the ColoradoIndependent.com reports that Hickenlooper called on the Legislature to pass legislation legalizing same-sex civil unions.

“As we strive to make Colorado healthier, we believe in equal rights for all regardless of race, creed, gender, or sexual orientation,” he said in the address. “We don’t believe we should legislate what happens inside a church or place of worship,” he added, “but government should treat all people equally. It’s time to pass civil unions.”

Girl Scout Calls for Cookie Boycott over Transgender Members

Upon hearing that a Colorado troop extended membership to a transgender child, a protester identified only as Taylor, decided to take action. The Daily News is reporting that Taylor—who wears Girl Scout sash—recorded an eight-minute video to argue that allowing a transgender child into the organization goes against scout values. In the video, she urges people to refuse to buy Girl Scout cookies until the organization agrees to ban transgender members.

The video was posted to HonestGirlScouts.com a group that encourages the Girl Scouts to eliminate sexual education and insist on a return to the traditional values listed in Girl Scouts of USA Congressional Charter. In it, Taylor questions the GSUSA for “breaking its own safety rules and going against its own research findings to accommodate transgender boys.”

“Unfortunately, I think it is because GSUSA cares more about promoting the desires of a small handful of people than it does my safety and the safety of my friends. And they are doing it with the money we earn for them by selling Girl Scout cookies.”

According to the article, the video has received more than 100,000 hits as of January 12, and it sparked response videos from people praising the Girl Scouts for allowing transgender kids into troops. In Colorado, one mom, Amy Thieme told 9News that she is using the video to encourage people to buy more cookies to voice their support for transgender scout, Bobby Montoya, and the Girl Scouts. When Montoya was kicked out of her troop in Louisiana, a Colorado troop welcomed her.

The Girl Scouts defended their policies of inclusion in a statement to the Daily News.

“For 100 years, Girl Scouts has prided itself on being an inclusive organization serving girls from all walks of life. We handle cases involving transgender children on a case-by-case basis, with a focus on ensuring the welfare and best interests of the child in question and the other girls in the troop as our highest priority.”

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