GLSEN Names Georgia High School Senior Austin Laufersweiler Student Advocate of the Year


From GLSEN:

GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, is pleased to announce that 18-year-old Austin Laufersweiler will receive GLSEN’s inaugural Student Advocate of the Year Award presented by AT&T at GLSEN’s fifth annual Respect Awards – Los Angeles at the Beverly Hills Hotel on Oct. 9. Laufersweiler is a senior at Lassiter High School in Marietta, Ga.”Austin is an outstanding student leader who responded to the difficulties he faced in high school by committing himself to making Lassiter High School safer, as well as contributing to efforts to change schools throughout the Atlanta area,” GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard said. “His courage and dedication are remarkable, and he is a tremendous example of how students can effect change. We are honored to present Austin with GLSEN’s first Student Advocate of the Year Award.”

Since experiencing anti-gay bullying at school as a sophomore, Austin has worked as an advocate for equality and safety at Lassiter High School and his broader community. He founded Lassiter’s Gay-Straight Alliance, organized last year’s Day of Silence at the school and has worked with the administration to implement a comprehensive anti-bullying policy that includes protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Austin also worked to ensure a safer school climate at his former middle school, creating a safe-space training for teachers to provide the tools to effectively intervene when they hear anti-gay remarks, specifically “that’s so gay.” Austin used materials from GLSEN and the Ad Council’s Think Before You Speak campaign to develop the training, which attracted over 40 educators and led to requests for additional trainings.

Affected by the suicide of 11-year-old Jaheem Herrera, Austin also participated in a panel discussion about the need to address anti-gay bullying in schools at a town hall organized by the Georgia Coalition Against bullying after Jaheem’s death. Jaheem, who did not identify as gay, took his own life after enduring bullying, including anti-gay bullying, in elementary school.

“I am extremely honored to receive the Student Advocate of the Year Award. I feel like my efforts are being recognized and understood by others as important,” Austin said. “This award reinforces my sense of purpose to put down homophobic attitudes. Our GSA is trying to stand up for safety in schools. We’re trying to give a voice to others who are silenced. We just want a safer school environment. We didn’t want people to be afraid to come to school.”

GLSEN’s Student Advocate of the Year Award presented by AT&T honors an outstanding young person whose efforts have helped ensure a safe learning environment for all students – and have served as a voice of change in their school and their community.

About GLSEN:
GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, is the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe schools for all students. Established in 1990, GLSEN envisions a world in which every child learns to respect and accept all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. GLSEN seeks to develop school climates where difference is valued for the positive contribution it makes to creating a more vibrant and diverse community. For information on GLSEN’s research, educational resources, public policy advocacy, student organizing programs and educator training initiatives, visit http://www.glsen.org

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Shepard Murder Still Stirs Anger, Fear


From Advocate.com:JUDY_MATTX

As the 11th anniversary of the murder of gay college student Matthew Shepard nears, celebrations of his life are casting a wide net across the country. 

His mother Judy Shepard, who has become a figure in his foundation and in lobbying for hate crime legislation is making appearances to talk about her book, The Meaning of Matthew. While speaking at Salt Lake City’s Main Library on Sunday, however, the mood went from celebratory to sour, when an onlooker called Shepard out from the crowd. 

According to a report on Pam’s House Blend, a man in the audience took Shepard to task, saying that she was exacerbating the premises under which her son was murdered for her own political gain. He said the murderers only targeted Matthew because they wanted to rob him and were high… not because of his sexual orientation. A visibly upset Shepard, however, refuted the claim, pointing out that neither of the killers tested positive for drugs when they were picked up by the police. They also each admitted to their actions because of the flight. 

Meanwhile, the creators of The Laramie Project, a play centered around Matthew Shepard’s death, are celebrating the project’s 10th year on stages across America with an epilogue, which includes a prison interview with convicted murderer Aaron McKinney. 

In the jarring interview, conducted by Greg Pierotti, McKinney admits to being drawn to crime since childhood and feeling sympathy for Shepard’s family… but not for killing Matthew.

“As far as Matt is concerned, I don’t have any remorse,” McKinney is quoted as saying, according to a script acquired by the The Associated Press. He added, “Yeah, I got remorse, but probably not the way people want me to. I got remorse that I didn’t live the way my dad taught me to live.”

McKinney and his accomplice Russell Henderson approached Shepard in a bar in Laramie on October 7, 1998. They offered Shepard a ride in their car, but then they savagely beat him and left him tied to a fence. Eighteen hours later, he was found by a passing bike rider, and eventually died on October 12. 

More than 1,000 actors will perform the updated version of the show when it premiers in October on the anniversary of Shepard’s death. Pierotti and other members of the Tectonic Theater Project will perform the piece at New York’s Lincoln Center while actors will stage the work at more than 100 theaters nationwide.

American Apparel Responds To Those Who Destroyed ‘Legalize Gay’ Window


From American Apparel’s Daily Update:

gay420Yesterday an American Apparel store in Silver Spring, Maryland had a window broken by someone upset over the company’s support for gay marriage. Our Georgetown location and others in the areas have received similar threats. We just wanted to use this forum here to announce that not only are they not going to prevent us from speaking out on an issue that is important to this company and our employees but we’ll continue to run Legalize Gay advertisements in papers across DC-Metro area. We’ll also send Legalize Gay t-shirts to any group in Washington DC that is fighting for gay rights and will help support any protest or rally for the cause.

We don’t find this kind of thing funny and we definitely don’t find it intimidating. Thanks to everyone who has reached out to us and if you need anything please contact: Jonny at jonnys@americanapparel.net or (213) 488-0226

Thank you American Apparel for not only refusing to back down to these low and cowardly anti-LGBT advocates, but also stepping up support for marriage equality in the face of such violent actions.

Former President Clinton Supports Gay Marriage


From Michelle Garcia at Advocate.com:

Former president Bill Clinton said in a conference for progressive students that he supports gay and lesbian couples’ right to marry.Bill Clinton

“Yeah,” Clinton said when asked after a speech at the Campus Progress National Conference, according to The Nation . “I personally support people doing what they want to do. I think it’s wrong for someone to stop someone else from doing that [same-sex marriage].”

In 1996, Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act, which banned recognition of same-sex marriages at the federal level and gave individual states the right to refuse recognition to such marriages even if performed legally in other states. He also approved the controversial “don’t ask, don’t tell” law, which barred openly gay personnel from serving in the military.

In a 2000 interview with The Advocate, Clinton said that “people who have a relationship ought to be able to call it whatever they want. And insofar as it’s sanctified by a religious ceremony, that’s up to the churches involved.”

He added about the fight in Congress over DOMA, “I think what happened in the Congress was that a lot of people who didn’t want to be antigay didn’t feel that they should be saying that as a matter of law, without regard to what various churches or religions or others thought, that the United States policy was that all unions that call themselves marriages are, as a matter of law, marriages. I don’t think we’re there yet. But I think that what we ought to do is to get the legal rights straightened out and let time take its course, and we’ll see what happens.”

I have no comment on this, because I feel that Evan Wolfson, executive director of Freedom to Marry and author of Why Marriage Matters: America, Equality and Gay People’s Right to Marry said it best:

“President Clinton’s support for the freedom to marry has evolved over time, and shows the power we each have when we talk about why marriage matters to the people we know and help them rise to fairness.  President Clinton has grappled with this question for a long time, and clearly he, like the country, has come a long way since fear and politics brought about such discriminatory measures as the so-called ‘Defense of Marriage Act’ that he signed and now has moved past.”