Gender Blender

Thursday, June 14, 2001

Senate Backs Boxer's Bold Move Aimed to Assure Equality to All Groups Regardless of Their Position on Sexual Orientation

Amendment Offsets Anti-Gay Helms Provision Designed to Coerce Those Who
Value Equality

WASHINGTON - The Human Rights Campaign called today's passage of an amendment sponsored by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-CA, a bold move to offset a previous anti-gay amendment offered by Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C. The Boxer amendment, which passed 52 to 47, ensures that all federally chartered organizations are guaranteed access to school facilities regardless of their position on sexual orientation, asserts HRC.

"Today, we are heartened that many senators stood up to Sen. Jesse Helms and Sen. Boxer's subsequent amendment ensures all groups will receive equal treatment at the door of America's schools," says HRC Executive Director Elizabeth Birch.

Earlier today the Senate voted 51 to 49 for passage of the Helms' amendment which prohibits federal funding to schools if they "deny equal access" to Boy Scout troops because of their discriminatory policy banning gay scouts.

Both amendments are now expected to go to a conference committee, where HRC will work to remove anti-gay Helms language from the bill. The courts have already ruled that school districts must allow the Boy Scouts to have equal access to public facilities, just like any other group. But school districts are still entitled to deny the Boy Scouts special benefits not offered to other groups. For instance, as the U.S. District Court explained, local school districts are not required to "endorse, participate, or solicit others to participate in Boy Scouts activities." What the Helms amendment seeks to do is intimidate school officials into continuing to offer the Boy Scouts these special privileges, even if their discriminatory policy conflicts with a community's values and standards, says HRC.

"This is really about forcing Helms' anti-gay viewpoint on local school districts across America," said HRC Political Director Winnie Stachelberg. "It is putting the congressional stamp of approval on exclusionary behavior by having the Senate officially say that 'discrimination is good.' We believe this sends a terrible message that conflicts with the values of most Americans."

Helms said on the Senate floor that "radical militants" were trying to ban the Boy Scouts from campuses. He also said they [gay activists] "demand that everybody else's principles must be cast aside in order to protect the right of homosexual conduct." On May 23, the House passed a similar anti-gay amendment sponsored by Rep. Van Hilleary, R-Tenn.

The Human Rights Campaign is the largest national lesbian and gay political organization with members throughout the country. It effectively lobbies Congress, provides campaign support and educates the public to ensure that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans can be open, honest and safe at home, at work and in the community.