As we blogged about last week, the U.S. Senate has spent several years hemming and hawing over whether to protect LGBT students from discrimination at school. It's been an embarassing parade of inaction, with the original legislation, known as the Student Non-Discrimination Act, not even being given a chance for an up-or-down vote. Finally, yesterday, Senator Al Franken of Minnesota brought up the effort as an amendment to a separate bill as a way of forcing senators to vote on the issue.
In a major disappointment, the Senate did not reach the required threshold of 60, thus defeating the measure and leaving millions of LGBT students across the country without the vital federal protections from discrimination that they sorely need.
If we are to look for silver linings, there are two that are worth noting: First, both of our senators from Maine, Susan Collins and Angus King, voted in favor of the amendment. We thank them for their willingness to stand up for what is right. Second, although the amendment did not have enough support to pass under the Senate's rules, it did garner 52 votes. This means that a majority of the Senate supports this important legislation, even if the minority is strong enough for now to block it.
LGBT students who are unprotected from discrimination at school because of their sexual orientation or gender identity surely could not care less about silver linings and marginal signs of progress. While they continue to suffer under a lack of federal protection, we must continue on in the struggle to secure equal rights for all people. Nowhere is that more evident than with the young LGBT students who bear the heaviest burdens of discrimination, yet get nothing but apathy and indolence from their representatives in Washington.