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Photo and illustration by NHM

Photo and illustration by NHM

President Obama made headlines during the Inauguration this week after mentioning not only gay rights, but also giving a nod to Stonewall. LGBT leaders not only praised the move, but they have also be signing on to support a new executive order that’s being called “Now is the Time.” The goal? To help reduce violence in communities around the country. It’s something that’s gotten the attention of Abbe Land, the executive director and CEO of The Trevor Project.

“The Trevor Project is encouraged that President Obama’s Executive Order, Now is the Time, highlights the importance of mental health care among youth when protecting our communities,” says Land. “Most people with mental illnesses are no more likely than the general public to act violently, unless drugs or alcohol are involved. However, the consequences of untreated mental illness can be serious, including increased suicide risk, failure in school, and homelessness. If a young person is lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) or questioning, these issues can be exacerbated due to environments of prejudice, fear and hate.”

Here in Pennsylvania, one of the newest legislators in the State House Brian Sims is urging other lawmakers to support an anti-bullying bill in Harrisburg that is believed to also help reduce violence in schools. About the bill, which is known as the Safe Schools Act, he has this say to colleagues this week:

“As many of you can imagine, as a member of the LGBT community myself, such measures are something that I am particularly attuned to. The fact remains that young members of the LGBT community (or those perceived to be) are bullied and otherwise discriminated against at alarming rates. Every study that looks to analyze the impact of bullying has shown there to be lasting, and extremely detrimental effects that can stay with a person for a lifetime.”

Prior to being elected at the state’s first openly gay legislator, Sims had spent much time touring the country, speaking with students about homophobia in sports. “I have literally spoken to thousands of straight and LGBT students at high schools and colleges across the nation on the issues of discrimination and bullying, and I can tell you the protections in this bill are badly needed,” he explains. “I’m hopeful that in the next few weeks I’ll be able to speak to all of my Democratic colleagues about why the bill deserves our support.”

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