A rash of suicides related to anti-gay bullying, such as the death of Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi, has thrust LGBT rights and digital harassment into the national spotlight. A wide-ranging group of celebrities, including Nicki Minaj, Lance Bass, Ellen DeGeneres, Perez Hilton and Alicia Keys, have spoken out against the circumstances surrounding the suicides.
MTV News caught up with several students to talk about how they think the government can curb intolerance via legislation. The young people we spoke with believe enacting laws alone won't eradicate prejudice toward LGBT Americans. Many suggested that change needs to occur on a micro level first and individuals need to commit to social acceptance for all.
"I think it's a double-edged sword. By not addressing it, you're not doing anything about the issue and you're allowing it to get worse," Abby Goldstein said at President Barack Obama's and the Democratic National Committee's first Gen44 Summit on Thursday. Goldstein added that even broaching the subject of gay rights, which has historically been a sensitive issue in America, may spark a hostile dialogue. "But, unfortunately, when you do speak about these issues and people begin to think about them and they're in the front page and they're on the headlines, I think that unfortunately this conversation can lead in a negative direction."
Ana Vargas said the United States is fairly progressive when it comes to preserving gay rights but added that the issue is complicated by Americans' varied views on sexuality.
"The U.S. is pretty good about this. We are the best ones around the world," Vargas said. "But I think the gay situation, it's about generations. It's not the just the law; it's people's mentality."
Kahn Branch maintained that change needs to begin at the grassroots level before the entire nation can evolve.
"Once we fully understand each other ... and then we begin to respect our differences, then the United States can move forward when it comes to the social matters," he said.
Nicole Zuralow agreed that citizens shouldn't wait for change to come from the government and possibly look into alternative forms of political support to cultivate resources in their communities.
"I think it's really important in the community to support outreach programs that may not necessarily be funded by the government but may be backed by certain political parties," Zuralow said. "I think it's important to remember that that is a big part of the community as a whole and amazing things can come from smaller programs. It doesn't necessarily have to be at the state level."
What are some ways you think we can combat bullying and digital abuse? Sound off in the comments.