Law in Contemporary Society

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SamuelPittmanSecondEssay 5 - 03 Nov 2023 - Main.SamuelPittman
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Breaking Through the Glass– No Longer Afraid.

-- By SamuelPittman - 11 May 2023

Do you like girls?

I remember being outed in front of my sixth-grade math class.

When my math teacher turned to me in front of the class and ask if I “liked girls”– the sixth-grade version of myself knew truth but ran with the lie. That lasted for about three more years. But it didn’t stop there.

As an open gay high school student, I faced mistreatment. My teachers often mocked the sound of my voice, told other students not to be friends “with the flamboyant” kid, and one of my classmates always reminded the table at lunch that gay people “are goin’ straight to fire in hell.”

I remember coming home one day and crying for hours. I asked my mom if I could either be homeschooled or if we could move. My mom called an attorney to inquire into whether the school had been adequately protecting LGBT+ students. When she told me she was going to talk to the school administration, I begged her not to. In fear of retaliation.

Is anyone watching?

I came to law I came to law school because I want to become a defender for LGBT+ students in the South.

While I was able to overcome harassment, many other students will not.

LGBT+ students in the South place their well-being in the hands of administrators that do not prioritize the safety of queer students. Moreover, as in my case, many school administrators are complicit with the harassment against LGBT+ students altogether. What follows from leaving LGBT+ students without internal support from within our public education system?

Suicide is the second leading cause of death among people aged ten to twenty-four – and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning students are placed at increased risk. LGBT+ youth are more than four times as likely to attempt suicide than their peers. The Trevor Project has estimated that more than 1.8 million LGBT youth seriously consider suicide each year in the United States, and at least one attempts suicide every forty-five seconds. The Trevor Project’s 2022 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health found that 45% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, including more than half identifying as transgender and non-binary youth.

Is anyone watching? I am.

I Thought Obergefell Fixed Everything

I remember watching the live news coverage of journalism interns running down the steps of the Supreme Court. The Obergefell decision felt like such a victory.

Under the Due Process Clause and Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, states must issue marriage licenses and recognize lawful out-of-state marriages for same-sex couples. End of story, right? Absolutely not.

Undeniably, LGBTQ+ rights in the year 2023 would alter without the holding of Obergefell. In a world where Obergefell is taken off the books as law, states may retain the right to distribute marriage licenses as they see fit. Thus, undermining the impact Obergefell had on protecting same-sex couples.

However, it would be a mistake to confine progress to Obergefell. While marriage equality is one of the fundamental achievements of the Pride Movement, there is still work left to be done. Obergefell is queer history. But it is also now the target of very real legal attacks.

State Action in the Spotlight– Creating a Legal Challenge to H.B. 1557

Florida House Bill 1557: Parental Rights in Education, also known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, has ignited a new debate and placed progress at risk.

The Florida governor signed HB 1557 in the name of parental rights. The bill purports an extremely dangerous fiction. It places live restrictions on discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity in schools. The irony is palpable.

The only people who ever taunted me for being openly gay in high school were my teachers. The only ones talking about my queerness and pushing it into the spotlight were the adults in the room. The conversation surrounding queerness has already been happening.

The governor of Florida ignites homophobic rhetoric expounding a fiction that it’s the queer community pushing an agenda onto others. When the only one overreaching is now the State.

H.B. 1557 functionally operates to deter educators from addressing LGBT+ history. Provisions in the bill create new liability for school districts. Under H.B. 1557 parents now can sue school districts for damages and attorney’s fees. The bill purports the fiction that conversations regarding sexuality were so prevalent within primary schools that legislation was needed.

H.B. 1557 stigmatizes the LBTGQ+ community, invites intolerance, and penalizes educators if they express support for LGBTQ+ students’ identity.

What follows? Fear within the queer community that the progress is in regress.

No Longer Afraid

The larger portion of my teenage years were spent in fear. Fear of being made fun of, the fear of having no friends, the fear of being different. And for a while, those fears were real.

Today, the stakes are too high to be afraid.

One of the primary objectives in creating a solution to the parade of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation must be the prevention of further harm.

For me, this means at least one of two things. First, it means re-contextualizing the fight for LGBT+ advocacy. LGBT students within our public education system must be protected in the classroom. H.B. 1557 operates to undermine the protections public school systems can offer queer students.

The public school system should consider adopting an "affirmative approach". By supporting and affirming the identities of students from all walks of life, affirming schools can contribute to mitigating the bullying LBGT+ youth encounter.

The Trevor Project found that states with anti-bullying laws considerably lowered the odds of student suicide attempts compared to states with anti-bullying laws that do not provide explicit protections for LGBT+ students.

Today, I am no longer afraid but ready to head back South.

My queerness has always been around and will not be erased.

It is time to break the glass and go and do good.

I take it you are not interested in addressing either of the substantive issues I raised. So far as the edit you did is concerned, I think it produced significant improvement. The draft remains caught between acting as a personal statement and as an editorial against a bill that is not intended to meet serious scrutiny, as I've remarked.

You are entitled to restrict access to your paper if you want to. But we all derive immense benefit from reading one another's work, and I hope you won't feel the need unless the subject matter is personal and its disclosure would be harmful or undesirable. To restrict access to your paper simply delete the "#" character on the next two lines:

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Revision 5r5 - 03 Nov 2023 - 19:53:39 - SamuelPittman
Revision 4r4 - 22 May 2023 - 16:39:58 - EbenMoglen
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