The Westshore Campus among others provided a training session for the Equality Act presented by the Human Rights Campaign. On April 22nd the largest LGBT civil rights organization not only offered all you can eat Lil Caesars pizza, but a workshop on how to lobby your local representatives to support the Equality Act. Lobbying is attempting to influence politicians or public officials on a particular issue. The Equality Act looks to make amend the Civil Rights Act making it illegal to discriminate against LGBTQ+ individuals within public education, employment, housing etc. According to theconversation.com a survey was given to students in 2013 and 65% of the LGBT students who took this survey reported said they heard homophobic slurs like “fag” or “dyke.” In addition, 30% reported missing at least a day of school because they felt unsafe or uncomfortable.
This fear could lead to a student completely bypassing a college education but the discrimination does not stop there. During the training students some members of Westshore’s LAMBDA GSA and teachers stated the important facts and the types of lobbying which include grassroots, grass tops and paid lobbying. In fact 63% of LGBTQ+ Americans reported to as of 2015 that they experience discrimination in their everyday lives and nearly half have experienced discrimination in the workplace. Adding that 30 states in the US lack explicit protections against workplace and housing discrimination. Students were not really surprised about this but most student who attending were uninformed.
Molly Whitehorn of the Human Rights Campaign lead the training, as she felt she need to host it at as many campuses as possible stating: “We think it’s so important to engage younger folks, historically younger folks have a lower turn out at midterm elections and even presidential so we want to make sure folks are educated on the issues because they are the next generation and these laws could affect them.”
How do you think the event went? Do you think you helped students who may be a part of the LGBTQ community?
“I hope so, I hope that even if nothing else happened here today people know what the Equality Act is because it’s a real challenge to help people understand what it is and how it would offer more protections. There is no press around and for some reason it hasn’t been huge in the media. If it wasn’t for the Queer Eye (Netflix) Guys a lot of people still wouldn’t have heard of it. So we are just making sure everyone knows what it is. Nigel Shelby of Huntsville, Alabama was only 15 year old when he died in Mid-April. Reports allege he committed suicide because of homophobic bullying within his high school. The act would look to offer alternative discipline for students who take part in hateful acts and help keep students experiencing difficulty due to sexuality in the classroom and safe. Tri C offers “Safe Zone’s” throughout its campuses offering spaces where students will be heard and respected regardless of sexual orientation, identity, or gender expression. In addition its LAMBDA GSA organizations are operated at each campus notably the Eastern Campus has failed to bring in membership for both fall and spring semesters but is hoping to recruit and resurge in the coming fall semester. Be sure to contact Student Life/Engagement on your campus to learn more about becoming member of organizations such as this and many others.”
Following the facts and info sessions students had a chance to conduct mock meetings on how to ask for support of the Equality Act. Make sure before going into any meeting be informed on your topic. It is important to add your own influence while providing the facts on the issue, make it personal. Lastly ASK for support make sure it is clear what you are looking for “Will you support the Equality Act?” Molly mentioned also that you should never become angry during these meetings always remain calm and do not argue with a government official.
The Equality Act was voted on by the house in April and has a business coalition which has support from companies like Google, Apple Inc., and Nike. Visit hrc.org to get more information on the Equality Act. They can provide you with additional facts, information on the Human Rights Campaign, and what you can do to help the movement. If that means helping someone share their story or writing or texting to your local government official to ask for their support the Equality Act in this fight for equal rights.