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News ::
HARVEY MILK SCHOOL UNDER SIEGE (english)
28 Aug 2003
A haven for lesbian, gay, bi, trans students:
HARVEY MILK SCHOOL UNDER SIEGE

By Imani Henry
New York
-------------------------
Via Workers World News Service
Reprinted from the Aug. 28, 2003
issue of Workers World newspaper
-------------------------

A haven for lesbian, gay, bi, trans students:
HARVEY MILK SCHOOL UNDER SIEGE

By Imani Henry
New York

On July 28, a New York City program for lesbian, gay, bisexual and
transgender youth announced plans to become the first high school for
LGBT students in the country in September. Founded in 1984, the Harvey
Milk School recently hired its first principal and was awarded $3.2
million to expand its classrooms and increase its 50 students to 170.

The school is named after the first openly gay member of the San
Francisco board of supervisors. Harvey Milk was assassinated by a
right-wing bigot in 1978.

After the July 28 announcement, right-wing forces came out of the
woodwork to falsely charge the MHS with segregation, rejection of
heterosexual students and diversion of funds from other schools.

In a July 28 New York Post interview, New York State Conservative Party Chair person Mike Long blasted the school for "social engineering." Long, a supporter of President George W. Bush's faith-based initiative campaign, called for "tolerance" from the LGBT community for "heterosexual rights."

This is an argument used historically by the ultra-right to undermine
the fight for civil rights for oppressed peoples. Sug gesting there is real equality under capitalism negates the history of systematic
special oppression that people of color, women and LGBT communities
face.

The truth is that there are no laws that give LGBT people any "special
rights" in the United States. What has been won is the inclusion of
sexuality and gender expression in some anti-discrimination
legislation. This in and of itself is the acknowledgment that
capitalism breeds a violently bigoted climate.

But even where protective laws have been won, like all
anti-discrimination legislation, it is arbitrarily enforced by the
courts and the cops. This further forces oppressed peoples to continue
their fight for equality.

Still to be won are civil basic rights that people who are not lesbian, gay, bi or trans already enjoy. The right to marriage, medical and life insurance for spouses, and the right to adopt children are examples of rights that LGBT people still do not have.

The Harvey Milk School struggle is in itself the fight for safety and
equality for LGBT students, many of whom have endured years of torment, discrimination and violence in other schools.

LGBT youth need even more safe havens like the Harvey Milk School.
According to the Gay and Lesbian Student Education Network's 2001
National School Climate Survey, "Four out of five LGBT students report
verbal, sexual or physical harassment at school and 30 percent report
missing at least a day of school in the past month out of fear for
their personal safety."

The Rev. Fred Phelps, a right-wing zealot, has issued a call for bigots to come to New York City to "boycott" the Harvey Milk School on Sept. 8. An LGBT youth of color group, FIERCE, has begun organizing a multi-national, gay-straight alliance to counter Phelps if he comes to town.

On Aug. 13, State Sen. Ruben Diaz and the right-wing group Liberty
Counsel filed a discrimination suit against the Harvey Milk School.

The Florida-based Liberty Counsel opposed the Supreme Court's ruling to overturn the Texas "sodomy" law, and has fought against recognition of same-sex civil unions and adoption of children by gay men and lesbians.

For years, the well-funded religious right has attempted to pit the
multi-national LGBT communities against communities of color through
alliances with conservative religious leaders. Council person Diaz, a
minister from the Bronx, told reporters, "My goal is to let the mayor,
the chancellor know that this is wrong. It is segregation. ... They are leaving my children, my Spanish children, my Black children behind."

The fact is that 75 percent of students at Harvey Milk are LGBT youth
of color. There are also non-LGBT students enrolled at the school--one
student, for example, has lesbian parents.

The divide-and-conquer tactics by the right wing come at a time when
the entire New York State education system is under attack. According
to the watchdog group Advocates for Children, Gov. George Pataki
proposes cutting $448.5 million from the budget.

This is a time for unity--against oppression and against the budget
cuts in education.

- END -

(Copyright Workers World Service: Everyone is permitted to copy and
distribute verbatim copies of this document, but changing it is not
allowed. For more information contact Workers World, 55 W. 17 St., NY,
NY 10011; via e-mail: ww (at) wwpublish.com. Subscribe
wwnews-on (at) wwpublish.com. Unsubscribe wwnews-off (at) wwpublish.com. Support the voice of resistance http://www.workers.org/orders/donate.php )
See also:
www.workers.org
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