Anti-Bullying Bill Fails, LGBT Community Moves Forward

(SIOUX CITY, IA) - A bill to fight "cyberbullying" and help students, including the LGBT community, didn't make it past Friday's legislative deadline.

One of Sioux City's most influential educators said "Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender" students should be treated like equals, but some Iowa lawmakers stand in the way.

At the Governor's conference on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning Youth in central Iowa this week, 700 teachers and students shared stories and defined bullying. North High has a Gay Straight Alliance group that went to the conference. The group's advisor, Everett Wall, said bringing his students to conferences like these make a big difference now and down the road. "A lot of the speakers talked about how your personal beliefs are your personal beliefs, but there's no justification for bullying. And unfortunately the LGBT community they seem to have a bull's-eye sometimes for bullying," said Wall. But political controversy surrounded the conference as state lawmakers realized a bill to fight "cyberbullying" wouldn't pass the Iowa House. "To hear we've progressed so far and we're still battling politicians was frustrating, but all you can do is yell out and advocate and tolerate those who are intolerant," said Wall. "I'm shocked. I really thought they would agree with it," said North High junior Richard Karel. Meanwhile, Sioux City Schools Superintendent Paul Gausman was named the 2013 Educator of the Year by Iowa Safe Schools, an organization that works to empower the LGBTA community. "We know that students don't learn unless they feel safe in school. And it doesn't matter what kind of group they may choose to belong to or not. Our job is to educate all," said Gausman. Democrat Representative Chris Hall told Siouxland News he blames the failure of the bill on wording that specifically aides the LGBT community. "Obviously you want the best for your kids. You wouldn't just ignore your own children," said North High sophomore Lisandro Ramirez. "We'll conquer the politics eventually. I think it's one step at a time. I mean maybe it starts with marriage and it moves from there, baby steps," said Wall.
Since Wednesday, three more U.S. senators have joined the growing list of lawmakers saying they support gay marriage.
It now includes Democrats Heidi Heitkamp and Joe Donnelly from the conservative states of North Dakota and Indiana and Democrat Bill Nelson of Florida. 53 senators from across the country are now publicly on board with the issue.