Gay-inclusive anti-bullying bill upheld by N.C. House

by Matt Comer  Editor  editor@goqnotes.com
Published: July 1, 2008 in News

Originally posted: July 1, 2008, 5:22 p.m.
Updated: July 2, 2008, 7:30 p.m.

RALEIGH, N.C. – On Wednesday afternoon, July 2, the N.C. House voted not to concur with the Senate version of the School Violence Prevention Act (HB 1366) by a vote of 60 to 56. The vote upholds the original House version of the anti-bullying bill passed in May 2007, including protections for LGBT students.

The Senate version, rejected by the House today, did not include protections based on sexual orientation and gender-identity or expression.

The two versions of the bill now head to conference committee where differences will be ironed out by members of the two legislative bodies. According to Ian Palmquist, executive director of Equality North Carolina, the statewide LGBT advocacy organization, conferees have not yet been appointed.

House Rep. Rick Glazier (D-Cumberland), the primary sponsor of the bill, and LGBT advocates are hoping to keep the original House version alive and send it to Gov. Michael Easley for approval.

Glazier said Wednesday on the House floor that while this bill has always been about protecting kids, “there are some who continue to argue that it seems to have more than that in it … We are going to be working with the Senate and all parties to try to create wording that everyone can live with.”

Glazier added that another category, socioeconomic status, would also be added to the list of enumerated protections.

Rep. Paul “Skip” Stam (R-Wake) stood to oppose Glazier’s motion not to concur with the Senate version.

“If you vote [not to concur] today you have voted against a strong anti-bullying bill that applies to every single student in the state of North Carolina,” he said. Stam has been a staunch opponent of including protections for LGBT students.

During the original House debates on the bill in May 2007, House Republicans moved to defeat the bill. An amendment offered by Stam then would have stripped out enumerated protective categories including sexual orientation and gender-identity and expression. That motion failed 46 to 45, with Speaker Joe Hackney breaking the tie.

“Every child in every school is precious and we cannot abdicate our responsibility because we are afraid of a word or phrase,” Glazier said during the May 24, 2007 debate.

All the child welfare and education organization in the state involved with the drafting of the bill support keeping the enumerated categories. Those groups include the N.C. Association of Educators, the N.C. Association of Social Workers, Covenant with North Carolina’s Children, the Junior League of North Carolina and others. Equality North Carolina, the statewide LGBT advocacy organization, has been a strong supporter of the original House version.