The Biggest Gay Bullying Threat of All

Several days ago I received an email from the PFLAG (Parents, Families, & Friends of Lesbians and Gays) organization I belong to.  It had been forwarded from National PFLAG.  They were looking for a parent to testify on behalf of District of Columbia Bill 18-1057, otherwise known as the “Harassment and Intimidation Prevention Act of 2010”.  The public hearing is set to take place on Monday, November 29.  At that same public hearing, Bill 18-0770, otherwise known as the “Bullying Prevention Act of 2010”, will also be discussed.  After reading B1057, I politely declined.  The reason I did so is because the bill defines “harassment, intimidation or bullying” as:

“any gesture or written, verbal or physical act, including electronic communication, that is reasonably perceived as being motivated either by any actual or perceived characteristic, such as race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, or a mental, physical or sensory handicap, or by any other distinguishing characteristic that:

     (A) a reasonable person should know, under the circumstances, will have the effect of harming a student or damaging the student’s property, or placing a student in reasonable fear of harm to his person or damage to his property; or

     (B) has the effect of insulting or demeaning any student or group of students in such a way as to cause substantial disruption in, or substantial interference with, the orderly operation of a school, university, recreation facility, or library.”

 I was amazed at this definition of bullying.  I did not understand why they needed to specify the bully’s target as coming from a protected class.  Why wouldn’t the following definition be just as effective?

“any gesture or written, verbal or physical act, including electronic communication, that:

      (A) a reasonable person should know, under the circumstances, will have the effect of harming a student or damaging the student’s property, or placing a student in reasonable fear of harm to his person or damage to his property; or

     (B) has the effect of insulting or demeaning any student or group of students in such a way as to cause substantial disruption in, or substantial interference with, the orderly operation of a school, university, recreation facility, or library.”

The simple truth is that my definition would be just as effective.  That got me wondering.  Why, then, would lawmakers feel the need to put the protected class language into this bill?  Simple.  They are riding the current tide of public sentiment in order to set precedent for creating new protected classes.  For example, if you look at the Fair Housing Act, the only protected classes are “race, color, religion, sex, familial status, or national origin”.  As another example, the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 has “race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age or disability” as protected classes.  Please don’t misunderstand me.  I think everyone should be treated equally.  I just don’t think that enumerating every possible protected class is the way to do it (or is even possible).  I think a better approach is to write laws as I have done above.  Make it clear that certain behaviors will not be tolerated, regardless of who the perpetrator is and regardless of who the victim is.  No class is inherently weaker or more deserving of protection than any other class.  Bullies look for victims of opportunity.  Write the laws so they know that everyone is off-limits.  And while we’re at it, can we fix all the other laws?

By the way, for those of you who don’t think this applies to you because it’s just “local DC politics”, please keep in mind Al Franken’s recent Twitter post advocating federal legislation.


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