LOS ANGELES — The Williams Institute released analysis and data today that provide important background and context for the ongoing debate on Tennessee House Bill 229 / Senate Bill 49 -- the so-called "Don't Say Gay" bill -- and its potential impact on at-risk youth throughout Tennessee. The Williams Institute is a national think tank and leading research institute at the UCLA School of Law that addresses issues of sexual orientation and gender identity law and policy.
As originally drafted, the "Don't Say Gay" bill would have prohibited Tennessee public school teachers, counselors and officials from discussing or providing information about homosexuality, including in response to student questions in one-on-one counseling. Amendments have been proposed to restrict information instead to biological reproduction, and to allow information about sexual orientation only in specified circumstances. The bill is set for hearing on Tuesday, March 13, 2012 before the House Education Committee. [Note: The research findings, data and analysis below are based on Williams Institute studies.]
This initiative comes at a time when much is known about the experiences of LGBT students and the impacts of an anti-gay environment on their health and well-being.
-- Hostile environments created by bullying and harassment based on sexual orientation and gender nonconformity lead to adverse health effects for LGBT youth. Population-based studies have shown that LGBT youth indicate that they suffer from emotional distress, depression, self harm, suicidal ideation, and suicide attempts at greater rates than heterosexual youth.
-- Anti-gay stigma has been shown to be related to increases in violence against LGBT youth and adults, as well as to lower levels of health.
-- Harassment based on sexual orientation and gender nonconformity is widespread with LGBT youth at heightened risk. An estimated 19,000 boys and 12,000 girls in Tennessee between the ages 12-17 may have some same-sex romantic attraction. Many thousands more may be perceived as possibly having a same-sex orientation, or being supportive of those who do, and may be bullied as a result. These estimates are based on findings from a US national study showing that 7.3% of adolescent boys and 5% of adolescent girls indicated some same-sex romantic attraction. These figures were applied to Census 2010 tabulations showing that there were nearly 260,000 boys and 250,000 girls aged 12-17 in Tennessee.
-- Research shows that states and locales that promote LGBT-inclusive school policies help reduce teen suicide, and enhance the health and well-being of LGBT youth. Specifically, schools that provide support services to LGBT students, aimed at increasing sensitivity and awareness by using culturally relevant, inclusive teaching materials, and allowing student support groups (such as gay-straight alliances) are effective in reducing threats and violence against LGBT students, and reducing LGBT students' truancy, injuries at school, and suicide attempts.
-- Laws with negative and discriminatory impact on the LGBT community could have a negative economic impact for business and the state economy. Policies designed to create supportive environment for LGBT people have been shown to yield broad economic benefits. Regions that want to attract innovative and entrepreneurial workforces and businesses do better when they are seen to be welcoming of their LGBT citizens.
Statement of Ilan H. Meyer before the United States Commission on Civil Rights briefing on peer-to-peer violence and bullying: Examining the federal response, May 13, 2011. Available at: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/8696742/Meyer%20Statement%20USCCR.pdf.
U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Peer-To-Peer Violence and Bullying: Examining the Federal Response (September 2011), available at http://www.usccr.gov/pubs/2011statutory.pdf.
About the Williams Institute
The Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Law and Public Policy advances law and public policy through rigorous, independent research and scholarship, and disseminates its work through a variety of education programs and media to judges, legislators, lawyers, other policy makers, and the public. A national think tank at UCLA Law, the Williams Institute produces high quality research with real-world relevance.
For more information go to: williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/ .