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The Gay-Straight Alliance

The lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and transgender (LGBT) community has come to be identified with “queer” people and with the HIV-affected. Thus the lengthened initialism, LGBTQH. Then there is the LGBTA, where “A” stands for allies: “straight” people who take up the LGBT cause and who compose the latter half of the gay-straight alliance

The LGBT allies are the heterosexuals or cisgenders who are satisfied with their sex or gender designation at birth, but who are uncomfortable with society’s aversion to those with non-conformist types of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Many of these straight allies are part of youth organizations that challenge homophobia and transphobia openly and actively. Because of their close association with LGBT citizens, some have become targets of harassment and bullying themselves; a few have been victims of serious assaults and murder.

According to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, in 2011 LGBTQH murders peaked. Over a 12-month period, thirty murders were reported nationwide. In two of these incidents, straight allies ended up dead because of LGBT discrimination: 28-year-old Gumaro Chavez from Chicago, killed by three men and two women as he was leaving a transgender bar; and 18-year-old Anthony Collao from New York, killed by homophobic teenagers at a party thrown by the victim’s gay friends. (It was not stated, however, if the two were victimized because they were LGBT allies or because they were thought to be gay.)

Power of the Gay-Straight Alliance

Because of their loud-and-proud association with gay people, straight allies also face the risk of being discriminated against and condemned. In many instances, their freedom to be peers with the queers – their right to combine strengths with the non-conformists – has been suppressed.

For instance, despite the legal victory in Nabozny v Podlesny, there are still public schools that turn a blind eye to anti-gay abuse, which is illegal and unconstitutional.

In New York, Pratt v Indian River Central School District continues to be litigated, to determine whether the school district failed to protect Charlie Pratt’s civil rights. Pratt, a student who allegedly did not “conform to masculine stereotypes”, was subjected to bodily injury and psychological harm inflicted not only by fellow students but by a handful of staff members as well. Other teachers and school employees would not participate in the routine taunting but allegedly would not assert their legal obligation to stop the aggressors either.

From elementary, through middle school, to high school, bullies allegedly shoved Pratt against the wall, spat on him, hurled food and objects at him, threatened him, and called him names. What worsened the situation was the administrators’ alleged deliberate indifference towards Pratt’s civil rights. They allegedly refused to train the faculty in protecting Pratt against anti-gay harassment and abuse.

For example, the high school principal would allegedly advise Pratt to be “low-key” and just avoid other students, further advising Pratt’s parents that the school could not guarantee their son’s safety.

This same high school principal had initially denied the request of Pratt’s sister, Ashley Petranchuk, to establish a gay-straight alliance within the school. The group’s goals were to provide support for victims of anti-gay discrimination at Indian River High School. Only when Petranchuk threatened to file an injunction alleging civil rights violations, among others charges, did the high school principal grant her permission to form the gay-straight alliance.

In the United States, the Equal Access Act, signed in 1984, requires secondary schools that receive federal aid to allow the organization of non-curriculum clubs and the holding of meetings in school spaces. Religious and minority organizations are protected by the act as long as these do not compel students to become members or disrupt the orderly educational operations within the school.

If you are an advocate, or interested in becoming an advocate of a gay-straight alliance and you are interested in determining your right to establish a gay-straight alliance in your school call The Sanders Firm, P.C., for a free consultation. The Sanders Firm, P.C., your voice for justice.