First Stage for AIDS Memorial

Design competition opens in NYC, while Vermont gets new supreme and Duncan calls for better anti-bullying efforts

By Brian Vetock and Will O'Bryan
Published on December 8, 2011, 6:10am | Comments

Design Competition Opens for NYC AIDS Memorial

To honor the approximately 100,000 New York City residents who have died due to AIDS-related illnesses, a coalition formed to install such a memorial in the city's St. Vincent's Triangle Park has launched a design competition, according to The New York Times.

The memorial is also intended to commemorate the caregivers who responded to the crisis.

''We're looking for designs that function both as a neighborhood park and a significant memorial,'' Christopher Tepper, an urban planner and one of the principals behind the project, told the Times.

The deadline for entries is Jan. 21, 2012. The winning entry will be awarded $5,000. The coalition behind the memorial hopes to unveil it for World AIDS Day 2014.

–Brian Vetock

Gay Marriage Champion Joins Vermont Supreme Court

Beth Robinson, a Vermont lawyer who pushed for critical civil union and marriage laws in the state, has been sworn in as the first out gay member of the state's Supreme Court, The Bellingham Herald reports.

Robinson was one of the three lawyers who represented three same-sex couples in a crucial 1999 state Supreme Court decision. The next year, the Legislature called for marriage-like rights and benefits for same-sex couples, making Vermont the first state in the country to do so.

Among her other accomplishments, the 49 year-old Robinson led ''Vermont Freedom to Marry,'' which in 2009 won the country's first marriage-equality law that didn't come as the direct result of a court decision.

–Brian Vetock

Education Department Surveys Anti-Bullying Laws

The U.S. Department of Education on Tuesday, Dec. 6, released a report surveying anti-bullying laws across the country, looking at all states and at 20 randomly chosen school districts.

At the state level, researchers found, as of April 2011, 46 states had anti-bullying legislation. Of those, 17 list explicit protection for various groups or characteristics. Race is the most commonly protected characteristic, with explicit protections in all 17 states. Sexual orientation is a protected in 14 of those states, while gender identity or expression is a protected category in 12.

When it comes to crafting anti-bullying legislation, the report lists two issues as points of contention.

''Two major issues at the center of the debate include disagreement over the inclusion of explicit protections for sexual orientation, and concerns about granting state legislatures control over education policy,'' the report states. It also cites a 2010 study by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) showing less bullying against LGBT students when those students are specifically protected.

A release announcing the new report included a statement from Secretary of Education Arne Duncan: ''This report reveals that while most states have enacted legislation around this important issue, a great deal of work remains to ensure adults are doing everything possible to keep our kids safe.''

–Will O'Bryan