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Historic Support for the Student Non-Discrimination Act

By Ian S. Thompson, ACLU Washington Legislative Office at 2:42pm

On Tuesday, Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) signed on as a co-sponsor to the Student Non-Discrimination Act. What’s the big deal you might be asking, particularly on a bill that already has the support of more than 160 House members?

What makes Rep. Clyburn’s co-sponsorship so significant is that, for the first time, every member of the House Democratic Leadership – Minority Leader Pelosi (D-Calif.), Minority Whip Hoyer (D-Md.), and Assistant Minority Leader Clyburn – are now SNDA co-sponsors.

SNDA would establish a comprehensive federal non-discrimination prohibition in all public and elementary and secondary schools based on sexual orientation and gender identity. If enacted into law, SNDA would have a profound impact in improving the lives of LGBT students, much like Title IX did for women and girls, by ensuring that discrimination and harassment of students on the basis of the sexual orientation or gender identity will have no place in our country’s public schools. Importantly to a civil liberties organization like the ACLU, it would do so in a way that both preserves the right of all students to speak freely and the right of all students to benefit equally from a public education.

Coming on the heels of the April endorsement by the White House, SNDA has been positioned as a key federal legislative goal for the LGBT community. There is an ever-increasing recognition across the political spectrum of the need to fill existing gaps in our civil rights laws that leave LGBT students, and those perceived to be, uniquely vulnerable in our public schools. It is unacceptable that discrimination and harassment are often a tragic part of LGBT students’ daily lives at school.

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The historic levels of support for SNDA in Congress, as well as the support from the White House, provide critical momentum, as well as lay a very strong foundation for eventual movement in Congress. As we approach the start of another school year for students across the country, SNDA cannot happen soon enough.

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