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Student invited to White House conference at UTA next week

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The TCU student-driven Gay Straight Alliance conference attracted the attention of a White House conference on safe schools and communities for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities.

Thomas Anable, a Fort Worth gay rights activist, invited Jamal King, president of the university’s Gay Straight Alliance, to voice his opinions at the White House LGBT Conference on Safe Schools and Communities on March 20 at the University of Texas at Arlington.

For the GSA conference at the university, the Southwestern Association of Gay-Straight Alliances Leadership Conference, students found sponsors, created workshops and made hotel arrangements for the event that ended on March 3, King said. Three days later, Anable called King.

If King chooses to attend the conference at UTA, he would join a nationwide series known as the White House LGBT Conferences. Officials at the Office of Public Engagement began planning the conferences in December after Anable drafted the idea for a nationwide
conference.

The OPE scheduled conferences for eight major U.S. cities between Feb. 1 and June 30, Anable said.

In February, the White House discussions dealt specifically with LGBT health issues in Philadelphia. Earlier in March, senior White House officials discussed homelessness and housing problems for LGBT communities in Detroit.

Not all the conferences will feature original subject matter — some topics may be repeated, Anable said. But the conference in Arlington will have a tailor-made message: preventing violence in schools.

“I picked safe schools and communities because that’s been our focus in Dallas and Fort Worth for the past couple of years,” Anable said.

In January 2011, the Fort Worth Independent School District added protections for LGBT employees with its “It’s Not Okay” campaign. Measures from the campaign will be added to the new anti-bullying law in September, Anable said. Dallas already has added an anti-bullying policy that applies to LGBT communities specifically.

Two years ago, city leaders in Fort Worth stayed away from the conversations about LGBT issues. But since Anable founded Fairness Fort Worth, an organization dedicated to promoting LGBT equality, more civic leaders have entered the discussion on LGBT issues, Anable said.

Anable, who said he became accustomed to people’s intolerance, said he was “stunned and ecstatic” as he watched DFW promote greater equality.

King, a junior social work major, said the effort he made for the university’s hosting of the regional GSA conference will pay off at the White House
conference.

“I hope that TCU’s effort can inspire more student participation at universities, especially here in the South,” King said.

According to the initial press release, these conferences would empower participants by connecting them with information, resources and opportunities from the federal
government.

But Christian Berle, deputy executive director for the Log Cabin Republicans, a Republican organization devoted to promoting LGBT rights, said empowering people in the LGBT community involves more than changing legislation.

President Barack Obama remained neutral on significant issues such as marriage equality in North Carolina and Minnesota, Berle said. Additionally, the administration did not obtain a comprehensive employment non-discrimination policy for the approximately 6.2 million LGBT people who are not protected in the workplace, he said.

The LGBT community has made huge contributions to the Obama administration but received only partial solutions in return, Berle said.

In addition, he said anti-bullying is an issue that most politicians work together to improve regardless of their political
affiliation.

Joanne Green, a political science professor, said for those seeking to stop bullying, dialogues about inclusion can encourage tolerance more effective than legislation targeting the issue.

“It’s not just that we pass laws to make people be nice to each other,” Green said. “It’s a lot more complicated than that.”

Anable said whatever the participants’ political affiliation, the White House conference would give people a platform to discuss the various national and local measures communities can take to end discrimination.

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