Jill Biden Opens PFLAG National Convention
Second Lady Dr. Jill Biden once again spoke out against anti-LGBT bullying as she stressed the importance of family and family acceptance at the opening of the Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) National Conference in Alexandria, Va., on Friday, Nov. 4.
"Acceptance by those you love is the greatest acceptance of all," she said, citing the mother who conceived PFLAG in 1972 after she marched with her gay son in the New York City Pride parade. "As a teacher and a mom, I know what Jeanne Manford knew-that there is a direct connection between acceptance and positive, healthy outcomes in every important area of life, including education, mental health, and physical health."
Biden specifically referenced the spate of LGBT teenager suicides that have made headlines across the country since Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi jumped off New York City’s George Washington Bridge in Oct. 2010 after his roommate allegedly live streamed a video of him having sex with another man over the Internet.
"We have all heard painful stories of bullying and harassment," she said. "We have read too many accounts of heartbreaking incidents where kids are driven to take their own lives rather than endure the taunting of their peers. No child should be subjected to that. And no parent should suffer that horrific loss."
Senators Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) introduced the Safe Schools Improvement Act in March that would amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to require schools that receive federal funding to adopt a policy that specifically bars bullying and harassment based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression. The measure would also require the Department of Education to provide a report to Congress on data collected from states every two years.
Colorado Congressman Jared Polis introduced the Student Non-Discrimination Act in March that would bar any public school that receives federal funding from discriminating against a student based on their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity and expression.
Both measures remain in committee, but Biden stressed the "devastating price" of inaction on these issues.
"Together, we all need to stand up and do our part to keep all of our kids safe, and give them the love, support and acceptance they need to learn and grow and fulfill their dreams."
Biden further touted what she described as the Obama administration’s ongoing commitment to LGBT Americans. These include the anti-bullying conference that the White House hosted in March and the addition of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression to the federal hate crimes law.
She received a sustained applause when she cited the repeal of ’don’t ask, don’t tell.’
"This progress is important, but there is still more to do," said Biden. "At this critical time for education in our country, we need to ensure that our schools are producing the next generation of American leaders and heroes. We must insure that our classrooms are safer for all students to learn, grow, and thrive."