History of the Commission
The Commission on GLBT Youth began in 1992 when Governor William F. Weld created the Governor's Commission on Gay and Lesbian Youth in response to an epidemic of suicide among gay and lesbian youth. On October 7th, 1998, Governor A. Paul Cellucci expanded the powers of the Governor's Commission and renewed the executive office's commitment to combat suicide and violence affecting gay and lesbian youth. The Governor's Commission was dissolved in 2006, and the current MA Commission on Gay and Lesbian Youth was created by the General Court on July 1st, 2006.
Passage of the Gay and Lesbian Student Rights Law
Massachusetts made history when the Gay and Lesbian Student Rights Law was signed by Governor William F. Weld on December 10, 1993. Massachusetts became the only state in the country to have full support for gay students through its governor, who created the nation's first Commission on Gay and Lesbian Youth, and through the state legislature, which voted overwhelmingly in favor of the law.
The law prohibits discrimination in public schools on the basis of sexual orientation. Gay students are guaranteed redress when they suffer name-calling, threats of violence, and unfair treatment in school. A student suffering from harassment can go to the principal, school board, and school administration and expect intervention and protection. Gay students have the legal right to full participation in all school courses, clubs, and activities.
The right to form a gay/straight alliance at school is ensured by the law. Schools have the legal obligation to provide the same materials, space, financial support, publicity, and all other support provided to any other student group or club.
There are over ten thousand gay, lesbian, and bisexual students in Massachusetts schools whose lives will be safer and whose educational opportunities will be increased because of the passage of this law.
The extraordinary victory achieved on December 10, 1993 was due to a spectacular lobbying effort by up to one thousand gay and straight students across Massachusetts. Hundreds of students attended rallies on Beacon Hill and met with their state legislators. Students organized letter-writing campaigns in their high schools and displayed posters and information about the legislation.
Courageous gay and lesbian teenagers told their personal stories of harassment and unjust treatment in school at public forums, on television and radio, and in print. The unprecedented student lobbying effort made national headlines: NBC News, the New York Times, National Public Radio, and CBS Radio News gave extraordinary coverage to the students' efforts and their victory. The blaze of national news has inspired students across the nation to follow the lead of Massachusetts students and begin plans to introduce similar anti-discrimination legislation in their states.
Gay and straight students made history in Massachusetts through their courage, their perseverance, and their unwillingness to be silent and closeted in response to anti-gay discrimination and bigotry.The law's passage was the culmination of a labor of love for hundreds; but it was just the beginning, the dawn of a new movement throughout the Commonwealth which will carry the message of the law to hundreds of thousands of Massachusetts students.