First Republican Lawmakers Film 'It Gets Better' Anti-Bullying Video
WASHINGTON -- A bipartisan group of lawmakers from the New Jersey congressional delegation have filmed an anti-bullying video for the It Gets Better Project, making it the first time that Republican elected officials have participated in the effort.
Ten out of the 15 members of the New Jersey congressional delegation -- including three Republicans -- participated in the video, which was spearheaded by the office of Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D) for National Bullying Prevention Month. The group included: Reps. Leonard Lance (R), Frank LoBiondo (R), Jon Runyan (R), Rush Holt (D), Bill Pascrell (D), Donald Payne (D), Steve Rothman (D) and Albio Sires (D), as well as Sens. Robert Menendez (D) and Lautenberg.
The members who did not participate were Reps. Robert Andrews (D), Chris Smith (R), Scott Garrett (R), Frank Pallone (D) and Rodney Frelinghuysen (R).
"There is no place in our society for bullying, especially when continued bullying leads to young adults taking their own lives," Runyan told The Huffington Post. "This issue goes beyond political affiliations. An individual's teenage years can be very difficult and it is important for our nation's youth to understand that it gets better."
"The issue of bullying is not a partisan one, but a human one," said LoBiondo. "Bullying needs to be reported and prevented, especially in our schools. This project relays a critically-needed positive message to South Jersey and the nation's youth who are considering taking their own lives. Namely, that they should hold on because it does indeed get better. In my view, anything that saves a teen's life if worth doing."
"The bipartisan effort puts forth an important, positive message that is consistent with New Jersey's landmark anti-bullying initiative signed into law earlier this year by Gov. [Chris] Christie," added Angie Lundberg, a spokeswoman for Lance.
The It Gets Better Project was started by sex columnist Dan Savage and his partner in September 2010 in response to the disturbing number of suicides by teenagers who said they were being bullied for being gay or perceived to be gay.
"The tragic impact of bullying in our schools, households, neighborhoods and even online has the attention of the entire nation and we must continue taking steps to prevent our young people from being abused and tormented," Lautenberg said in a statement. "This video is a message to kids in New Jersey and around the country -- we are on your side, and we are here to tell you that it gets better."
In July, the Massachusetts delegation also filmed a video for the It Gets Better Project. Every single member of the delegation participated except one Republican -- Sen. Scott Brown.
Earlier this year, Lautenberg and Holt reintroduced the Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act, in honor of a freshman at Rutgers University who took his life in September 2010 after being bullied. It would require colleges and universities that receive federal student aid to have in place a policy that prohibits harassment of students based on their actual or perceived race, color, national origin, sex, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or religion.
Speaking out against the bullying of young people seems to be one of the few areas where the New Jersey congressional delegation can come together on LGBT issues, despite party lines. In December 2010, Lance and LoBiondo voted against repealing "don't ask, don't tell"; all the Democrats voted for it. Runyan was not yet sworn in.
This story was updated with comment from LoBiondo.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen's party affiliation. We regret the error.