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CHICAGO (CBS) — An Illinois lawmaker called the state’s rejection of an anti-bullying ordinance “disgusting.”
The bill, HB 590, failed by one vote on Tuesday, after some conservative lawmakers expressed concern that it might be used to promote acceptance of homosexuality.
But the bill is not dead. State Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago) placed it on postponed consideration, which means it could come up for debate again before the legislature adjourns at the end of the month.
After the vote Tuesday, state Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago), who was a sponsor of the legislation in the state House of Representatives, expressed frustration on her Facebook page.
“Disgusting. We still have a chance. Please call your Senators, have your friends and family call theirs. Tell them we must protect our kids,” Cassidy wrote.
In a later post, Cassidy said she was “not giving up,” since one more chance remains to pass the bill.
“One ray of sunshine was a message from an old friend from the Catholic grammar school I went to reminding me that I am doing the right thing and making a difference,” Cassidy wrote.
Backers of the bill have said it is designed to encompass all bullying – not just anti-gay bullying. The bill would have strengthened anti-bullying programs by forcing districts to outline what would happen to students if they’re caught bullying.
But the Illinois Family Institute – a group that has attracted consternation from the Southern Poverty Law Center for its shrill statements about homosexuality – insists that accepting gay rights is the goal of the bill.
The organization points out that Cassidy is an open lesbian, and that the bill was backed by the gay rights advocacy group Equality Illinois, which the group calls “a homosexual activist organization.”
In a lengthy missive posted on its Web site before the vote, the Illinois Family Institute’s Laurie Higgins wrote that the bill is “unnecessary” because schools are already required to maintain an anti-bullying policy.
Higgins went on to dismiss the phrase “sexual orientation” as “a leftist rhetorical creation,” and went on to compare it to promiscuity, “adult consensual incest,” and polyamory.
“Some will take offense at my comparison of homosexuality to polyamory or adult consensual incest because — they argue — those conditions are immoral and homosexuality is not. But that is precisely the unsettled debate,” she wrote. “The moral beliefs of homosexuals and their ideological allies who oppressively control public schools are just that: beliefs, assumptions, moral propositions — not facts.”
The consequences of anti-gay bullying in particular have received widespread attention in recent months, particularly after a Feb. 2 Rolling Stone article documented a “war on gay teens” launched by the school district in Anoka, Minn.
The article said after a policy was enacted mandating that “homosexuality not be taught/addressed as a normal, valid lifestyle,” anti-gay bullying went unchecked as teachers feared acknowledging homosexuality at all. The bullying led to a rash of student suicides, the article says.
The bill is currently listed as having been “placed on calendar” for Wednesday.