Press Room

April 20, 2012

Category: Youth & Campus

HRC Calls Out GOP Senate Hopeful for Mocking LGBT Bullying

Heather Wilson Blasts Student Non-Discrimination because it “Criminalizes” Teasing

04/20/2012

Washington – The Human Rights Campaign – the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender civil rights organization – is calling out New Mexico U.S. Senate candidate Heather Wilson for remarks in which she actually blasts legislation meant to protect children because it “criminalizes” teasing. In video captured by the group American Bridge, Wilson says of the Student Non-Discrimination Act (SNDA): “…but that particular act is so broad that it would actually punish children, or say it’s prohibited to express an opinion with respect to homosexuality in schools.”

“Heather Wilson’s remarks are shockingly ignorant and show how unaware she is of the realities kids face in school on a daily basis,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese. “Bullying and harassment of kids who are LGBT, or who are perceived to be LGBT, is a serious problem. Our lawmakers have a moral obligation to protect children. Heather Wilson should be sending a message that verbal and physical abuse is never acceptable behavior. Instead, she’s saying harassment based on someone’s real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity is a normal way for bullies to express their opinion.”

Heather Wilson formerly represented New Mexico’s first Congressional district in the House of Representatives. She has a staunchly anti-LGBT track record – she’s voted against workplace protections for LGBT employees and supports a discriminatory federal marriage amendment that would ban committed, loving same-sex couples from marrying. She performs poorly on HRC’s Congressional Scorecard regularly, most recently receiving a 5 – out of a possible 100.

In reality, SNDA would prohibit public schools from discriminating against any student on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. Discrimination and harassment of students who are LGBT, or are perceived to be LGBT, can lead high rates of absenteeism, dropout, adverse health consequences and academic under achievement. When left unchecked, such discrimination can lead, and has led to, dangerous situations for young people. SNDA is a critical step forward in addressing the discrimination that LGBT students face every day in their schools and classrooms.

SNDA does not inhibit constitutionally guaranteed freedoms of speech and expression for individuals and student groups.   Language in SNDA recognizes that nothing in the Act alters the legal standards and rights available to individuals or religious and other student groups under the First Amendment and the Equal Access Act.  SNDA prohibits discrimination, including severe, persistent or pervasive harassment; it does not prevent an individual or organization from expressing disagreement with an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

“Heather Wilson isn’t just disagreeing with SNDA from a policy perspective, she is devaluing the everyday experiences, health, and safety of LGBT youth. Bullying or harassing another human being is never acceptable, regardless of your personal beliefs. Heather Wilson should immediately amend her remarks to demonstrate she understands just how dangerous a problem bullying is for students.”

HRC is urging its members and supporters to take immediate action and call on Heather Wilson to clarify her remarks. The petition can be accessed here.

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.

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