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The American Right to Be Out

The Right to Be Out

A regular reader sent me a link to this story about a new book, The Right to Be Out, by Stuart Biegel:

Americans have a constitutional right to be openly gay, lesbian, or transgender, and in fact the Constitution guarantees and protects that right, asserts Stuart Biegel. His new book, The Right to Be Out: Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in America’s Public Schools, is a timely release from the University of Minnesota Press.

Biegel argues that homosexual and transgender people should be able to be “out” simply because they are American. The Constitution, he argues, inherently encodes a “right to be out” in the First Amendment, which guarantees the right to free expression, whether of ideas or identity, while the Fourteenth Amendment guarantees equal treatment under the law and public programs.

At a time when the Far Right, especially the most crazy elements of that fringe seek to take over full control of the GOP, it is especially important for everyone else, from the far left to the moderates in both parties to remember  that basic constitutional rights are guaranteed to all. While crazies like Sharron Angle are calling for second amendment remedies, it can be easy to simply gloss over the issue of constitutionality. In fact, part of her(their??) strategy may simply be to trivialize the notion of constitutionality, while at the same time provoke a knee-jerk interest in violence.

Others, on the LGBT Rights side of things, don’t focus on this either, getting caught up in the simple (but true) message, that everyone deserves equality. Yes, quite true, but when push comes to shove, either literally or rhetorically, we really need to have a sound grasp on how that right is based in the founding documents and history of our country.

Historically, we know that for over 200 years, women and men have had to fight non-stop to gain access to what our founding Fathers penned as inalienable rights. Even those who were placing that important text to parchment owned slaves. The contradictions have always been there from the beginning.

It isn’t enough to simply say “Yes!” to the notion that our right to be out is protected in the Constitution. We each need to understand how our rights are protected within documents such as the Constitution as well as our laws, and policies of the country. We each need to be mini constitutional experts, and this book is a good first step towards that end.

This is perhaps more important today than ever before. As suicide rates for LGBT youth are higher than that for straight youth, and recent suicides have attracted so much attention, the conservative groups which seek to keep LGBT’s from having full equality, are making our schools battle grounds where their bigotry harms. LGBT youth and all youth for that matter can thrive only in environments where their full expression is welcomed, respected and supported. Not only because it is the right thing to do, but because it is our youths’ constitutional right.

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