In May 23 comments to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, the ABA commended the commission for its attention to bullying and other types of peer-to-peer violence where students are targeted because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.
ABA Governmental Affairs Director Thomas M. Susman submitted the ABA comments, which were developed by the association’s Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities and Commission on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity. The comments were in response to a May 13 Civil Rights Commission briefing held as part of a 2011 statutory enforcement project on the federal response to incidents of bullying based on race, national origin, religion, disability, gender or lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) status.
Topics covered in a final report to be issued in September will discuss student needs, promising programs, jurisdictional issues and the enforcement efforts of the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice.
Susman told the commission that ABA policy adopted in February 2011 urges the prevention of bullying, including cyberbullying and youth-to-youth sexual and physical harassment on a variety of bases, including sexual orientation and gender identity. The policy, among other things, recommends that officials at all government levels define bullying, develop education programs to help identify victims, analyze existing laws and policies and monitor their effectiveness in preventing bullying, and provide institutional protections to children at risk.
In the comment letter, Susman noted that 90 percent of LGBT youth report having been verbally or physically harassed or assaulted.
“The ABA has a long and proud tradition of actively opposing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and the association recently extended that opposition to discrimination on the basis of gender identity,” he wrote.
He described numerous ABA policies opposing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in family law, including child custody, adoption, foster care, victim compensation and victim assistance for surviving partners of victims of terrorism and other crimes, and civil marriage. In addition, the association condemns crimes of violence based on prejudice, including prejudice on the basis of sexual orientation, and has adopted policies urging federal, state and local governments to enact legislation prohibiting discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations on the basis of sexual orientation or actual or perceived gender identity or expression.
The association also amended its law school accreditation standards to require law schools to provide equal education and employment opportunities without regard to, among other things, sexual orientation. The association’s aspirational Goal III includes a commitment to promote the full and equal participation of LGBT people in the legal profession.
Susman also pointed out that the association has submitted amicus briefs in a number of cases relating to the issue of discrimination based on sexual orientation or sexual or gender identity.