Sen. Al Franken introduced legislation Thursday to protect gays and lesbians from school bullies – even from bullies who just think their victims are gay or lesbian.
 
The proposed Student Non-Discrimination Act, long awaited by gay activists, also adds bisexual and transgender students to the menu of groups protected against school violence and harassment.
 
Said Franken: “Our nation’s civil rights laws protect our children from bullying due to race, sex, religion, disability, and national origin. My proposal corrects a glaring injustice and extends these protections to our gay and lesbian students who need them just as badly.”
 
Absent from the list of 22 Senate co-sponsors was fellow Minnesota Democrat Amy Klobuchar, who has come under fire from gay activists for what they see as her reticence on gay issues.
 
The new law would establish a federal prohibition against discrimination in public schools based on actual – or perceived – sexual orientation or gender identity. It would forbid schools from discriminating against gay students or ignoring harassing behavior.
 
 Remedies would include loss of federal funding and legal causes of action for victim suits.
 
A spokesman for the Family Equality Council, a national gay rights group, praised Franken’s bill. The group also took note of Klobuchar’s absence from the list of sponsors, all of them from the Democratic caucus.
 
“We’re hopeful Sen. Klobuchar signs onto [the bill] on behalf of the 3,000 kids being raised by same-sex couples in Minnesota and the nation’s one million LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender] families raising about two million children,” said Kevin Nix, a spokesman for the group. “No child—gay and straight—should have to deal with discrimination, abuse, and even violence at school.”
 
A spokeswoman for Klobuchar said she was unsure of Klobuchar’s position on the bill. Some gay activists in Minnesota have criticized Klobuchar for her tardiness in signing on to legislation repealing the military’s Clinton-era “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.
 
Senate records show Franken signed on to Sen. Joe Lieberman’s Military Readiness Enhancement Act on March 3; Klobuchar waited until April 28, angering activists who said it showed a lack of leadership on a signature gay issue.