Members of Justice League and GSA attend Lobby Day at capital

Jonah Sandy

Abby Smith, Staff Writer

At 1:45 am, November 7th, the Marriage Amendment that would have defined marriage as one man, one woman was defeated. After this historic advance, LGBTQ activists are taking the next step by working to pass two new bills through the Minnesota legislature: Marriage equality and a new comprehensive bullying policy that would protect LGBTQ students. Blake students rallied for these bills at the state capital at Minnesotans United For All Families’ and OutFront Minnesota’s Lobby Day on April 18th.

“OutFront Lobby Day focuses on issues that affect GLBTQ people in Minnesota,” says JJ Kahle, who has taken students to these rallies since she started teaching. Students at the events have the opportunity to go to workshops that teach them how to work with legislators on various issues along with many other things. Meetings are held, and a rally in support of the legislation that is going through the state government right now.

Why is this all important? LGBTQ rights have been a pretty hot topic lately. Nine US states, the District of Columbia, and three Native American tribes have legalized marriage equality, and with the Supreme Court not only taking on DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) and Proposition 8, LGBTQ rights are definitely an important political topic.

The two main bills that were discussed at the rally were the Freedom to Marry Bill and the Safe and Supportive Minnesota Schools Act.  The Marriage Bill, if passed, would make same-sex marriages legal in the state of Minesota, and is more clearly understood. The Safe Schools bill, on the other hand, is less widely known.

Governor Mark Dayton established a task force for the prevention of bullying when he became governor, and a new anti-bullying bill came out of it. This bill enumerates things such as sexual orientation, race, status, and disabilities so that schools throughout Minnesota will have to take action is someone is being bullied. Madison Ethen ‘15 said she supported the bill “because it’s really important that regardless of any[one’s] school… children aren’t being bullied”.

In the recent years, many students have gone to this rally with Blake, usually a variety of Justice League members, GSA-ers, and anyone else who is willing to go will go every year. There are no prerequisites required of someone going, just an interest in social justice and seeing how that works when it interacts with the State Government. Kahle even commented that she remembered one year when she went with only one other student.

The students that went this year were very excited to do so. Bekka Farley ‘15 commented before the rally that she hoped to get a chance to work with her local Legislator. “I have never done that before on this issue, but I look forward to it,” she said. Some students were able to speak personally with their district representatives on the importance of these bills.

For the first time, Blake students, along with Kahle, gave a workshop teaching high school students from other schools about how to create a Stand Up, Speak out event of their own. Blake’s own home grown initiative for anti-bullying, Justice League–the group working behind the event–has taken the next step to reach past the boundaries of the Blake school and into the greater community. Kahle’s hopes for the workshop were expressed when she said, “we are hoping that many other schools in Minnesota will commit to putting on their own Stand Up, Speak Out initiative,” and as evidenced by the number of people that snatched up the Stand Up, Speak Out buttons that the Justice League brought, the initiative is already spreading beyond Blake. Earlier this week, the initiative was even presented at an Edina City Council meeting.

This year’s rally was the first to be held in a combination of sleet and snow, which both politicians and students in attendance braved for their cause. A combination of rallying, conversation, and teaching was waiting for students who attend the OutFront rally this year. Rally day turned out to be a pretty good way to spend a snowy Thursday; apart from experiencing the democratic process and teaching others about social justice, the Blake group indulged in a hot food-truck lunch before the rally.

 

Members of the Justice League generated out-of-school interest in the Stand Up Speak Out Initiative through their presentation to high school students at Lobby Day. From left: Bekka Farley ’15, Annelise Ellingboe ’16, Megan Olson ‘14.
Members of the Justice League generated out-of-school interest in the Stand Up Speak Out Initiative through their presentation to high school students at Lobby Day. From left: Bekka Farley ’15, Annelise Ellingboe ’16, Megan Olson ‘14.