The Michigan legislature was moving to pass an anti-bullying bill, but the Republicans have been fighting it every step of the way.
Michigan is already one of only three states in the country that have not enacted any form of anti-bullying legislation. For more than a decade, Democrats in the state legislature have fought their Republican colleagues and social conservatives such as Gary Glenn, president of the American Family Association of Michigan, who referred to anti-bullying measures as “a Trojan horse for the homosexual agenda.” In that time, at least ten Michigan students who were victims of bullying have killed themselves.
This year, Republicans only agreed to consider an anti-bullying measure that did not require school districts to report bullying incidents, did not include any provisions for enforcement or teacher training, and did not hold administrators accountable if they fail to act. And they fought back Democratic attempts to enumerate particular types of students who are prone to being bullied, such as religious and racial minorities, and gay students. But it was the addition of special protections for religiously-motivated bullying that led all 11 Democratic senators to vote against the legislation they had long championed.
In an emotional speech on the Senate floor, Democratic Leader Gretchen Whitmer accused her colleagues of creating a blueprint for consequence-free bullying. “As passed today,” said Whitmer, “bullying kids is okay if a student, parent, teacher or school employee can come up with a moral or religious reason for doing it.”
The bill is called “Matt’s Safe School Law,” after Matt Epling, a Michigan student who committed suicide in 2002 after enduring prolonged bullying. Matt’s father, Kevin Epling, expressed his dismay in a Facebook post after the state senate vote on Wednesday. “I am ashamed that this could be Michigan’s bill on anti-bullying,” wrote Epling. “For years the line [from Republicans] has been ‘no protected classes,’ and the first thing they throw in…was a very protected class, and limited them from repercussions of their own actions.”
In other words, the Religious Reich thinks they’re the victims of bullying because the law would make it illegal for their little darlings to beat the shit out of gay kids in the name of Jesus.