By Jordy Yager - 04/28/12 06:08 PM EDT
Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) on Saturday sought to build momentum off of a recent endorsement by President Obama and pledged to pass his bill that would curb discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender public school students.
“This isn’t going to be one of those bills that just languishes in the Senate,” said Franken of his Student Non-Discrimination Act of 2011.
When Minnesota's junior senator introduced the measure last year, his fellow senators told him it was a “nice bill” but that it didn’t stand much of a chance and he would be lucky to get 5 or 10 cosponsors, Franken said.
The bill now has 37 cosponsors, including Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), the chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee where the measure currently sits. It’s House companion bill, sponsored by Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), has a wide base of bipartisan support as well, with more than 150 cosponsors. Polis is the first openly gay parent in Congress.
Speaking at the White House Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Conference on Families in Minneapolis, Franken heralded Obama’s endorsement of the bill last week, “a huge milestone in that fight.”
The measure, if enacted, would prohibit public school students in any federal educational program from being discriminated on the basis of their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.
Franken said the bill would give LGBT kids the same protections as children received against discrimination on basis of race, national origin, religion, gender, and disability.
“There are a lot of people who say, ‘Well, what can you do about bullying? It happens. Kids will be kids. Boys will be boys,’” said Franken.
“I don’t think that’s right. I think that breaks down under some examination because what we’re seeing in our schools today isn’t just teasing. It’s not just playground behavior. What we’re seeing is more than just bullying. We’re seeing discrimination.”