Homophobia in Recent News (and What the Law Can Do)

A student at McGuffey High School participating in an “anti-National Day of Silence.” Courtesy of Buzzfeed.

Every year in April high schools around America observe the Day of Silence, which began through the efforts of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) in 2001 as an annual day to be concentratedly mindful–and thus to spread awareness–of bullying and harassment of LGBT students and allies.

This year it was nationally observed on Thursday, April 17, but at McGuffey High School in Pennsylvania the day became one in which some students rallied for homophobia. Through their coordinated efforts, these students wore flannel, wrote such things as “Anti-Gay” on their hands with Christian crosses drawn underneath it, jostled students known and suspected to be LGBT. There was even a rumored “lynching list” and nooses were hung on the flags in some classrooms.

These studnts were even proud of what they were doing, posting cheerful photos to social media throughout the day. You can see some of these photos on Buzzfeed here.

This happened just a month after an initiative was proposed by a Huntington Beach attorney named Matthew McLaughlin that called for the California LGBT population to be put to death by “bullets in their heads.” McLaughlin’s proposed initiative has a fat chance of getting the 365,000 signatures it needs in order to make it on the ballot, but even then his efforts have prompted measures to prevent such things from even being able to be filed for ballot measures. Two lawmakers have proposed a bill that would raise the current $200 fee for filing for a ballot measure to at least $8,000.

We all know that laws can protect certain universal rights and also safeguard rights that protect the equality of minority populations, among other things. Laws are also mutable barometers for the national milieu, and can set standards that reflect the changing culture. Yet while progressive laws that are working toward equality for the LGBT population are in place and many in the making, they don’t always affect the inbent hate that still exists in people’s very worldviews–as some at McGuffrey High have shown, the resistance to equality can be planted from a young age, perhaps (and probably) by parents who themselves grew up in a bygone time when they too were raised by people still lingering in outdated modes of thinking. This is not to reduce people to products of their upbringing–people break free from their parents, of course–but to point out that sometimes certain sentiments persist against the grain of the times independently of the law, and it should lead us to wonder if there’s much we can do about that.

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