Lyons Township students salute vote to pass gay marriage
Updated: March 22, 2013 6:20AM
LA GRANGE — Two Lyons Township High School seniors applaud the Illinois Senate’s historic vote Feb. 14 to legalize same-sex marriage.
“It’s amazing. I’m so excited,” said Abe Akande of La Grange, a leader of LT’s Prism group, which welcomes gay, straight and other students.
“I think it’s going to do well in the House, and then Illinois will be part of the small minority of states where they have same-sex marriage,” Akande said. “Civil unions are good, but they still aren’t exactly the same as marriage.”
The Illinois Senate voted 32-12 to legalize gay marriage, but no vote has been set for the Illinois House, where considerable support is anticipated. Gov. Pat Quinn has said he will sign a law making Illinois the 10th state allowing same-sex marriage.
Western Springs senior Grace Gonia agreed on the vote’s importance.
“It’s an incredible step, and I’m so happy to hear,” Gonia said.
But she said her main focus will continue to be working with the Illinois Safe Schools Alliance, a statewide group to promote tolerance and end bullying of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Queer community.
Gonia and Akande were honored in the fall with the organization’s first student activist awards.
“I think the more people are aware about LGBTQ issues, the more accepting people will be,” Gonia said. “LT is relatively accepting compared to some other schools. Prism will continue to come to the summits and focus on keeping LT a safe environment.”
Gonia said she was pleased with the award and proud to be associated with the state group, which spearheaded the Illinois Prevent School Violence Act in 2010.
“That has affected so many other youth outside of LT,” she said.
Akande said receiving the award is very meaningful and encourages him to continue working to make schools safer for all students. Tolerance and acceptance has improved at LT for members of the LGBTQ community, though he sees room for improvement.
“Punitive discipline doesn’t teach a lesson,” he said. “If a student calls someone a slur, instead of getting a vacation, the bully should have to attend four weeks of Prism meetings, or give a presentation to the deans on what is acceptable behavior.”
Akande also suggested literary themes of the community be included in the English curriculum as well as the groups’ civil rights struggle highlighted in history classes. Same-sex sex education issues also should be addressed in health classes.
“I want to expose the elephant in the room and help everyone understand it isn’t that big of a deal,” he said.