Home News and Features Montpelier’s Queer Youth Walkout 

Montpelier’s Queer Youth Walkout 

Group photo taken inside the Vermont Statehouse; middle school students kneeling in front row.
Main Street Middle School students and the Rainbow Caucus celebrate queer visibility after meeting in the State House on March 11. Photo by Valentyn Smith.
Dozens of Montpelier students joined Queer Youth Assemble’s national walkout to support queer youths earlier this month. Their pride-themed signs stated: “Support All Youth,” “Say Gay,” “We Exist.” Students joined Vermont state representatives at the Vermont Statehouse on March 11 in protest of the recent actions in Florida and Texas that target LGBTQIA+ youths. 

Young Vermonters and advocates opposed House Bill 1557 Parental Rights in Education, also known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, passed by the Florida Legislature on March 8. 

According to the bill, “Classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.” This legislation takes effect in the state of Florida on July 1, 2022. 

“Today, we’re protesting legislation and similar measures across the country taken to harm LGBTQ individuals or hinder their freedoms and rights. We’re protesting specifically Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which limits the discussion of LGBTQ content in schools and opens up the potential for parents to sue the schools if that content is discussed, which, I think, all of us here think is gravely unfair,” said MHS Gender and Sexuality Alliance member Merrick Modum.

“We hope to raise awareness about what is going on with these bills and what impact they will have on the LGBTQ community. And, we think that by doing this, we’ll hopefully prevent similar measures from going across the country. Particularly, in our state and other states.” 

“There are so many people being oppressed and discriminated against just because of who they are,” Homeschooled student Jovian Mulcahy said. “This event today really did let a lot of people know that they are not alone, and there are people who are going to support them no matter what.”

Vermont State Rep. Emma Mulvaney-Stanak (Chittenden-6-2), a member of the Rainbow Caucus, welcomed students to meet with legislators in the Statehouse. Mulvaney-Stanak facilitated the Q&A session with the Rainbow Caucus and began by reading a statement supporting Vermont’s queer youths in opposing anti-LGBTQIA+ policies.

“It’s one thing to be on the defense to make sure that a harmful policy doesn’t advance in Vermont’s legislature,” Mulvaney-Stanak said, “But what we really should be doing is proactive legislation that is affirming.” 

Ali Kuhlman, a Main Street Middle School GSA facilitator and social worker, reached out to Mulvaney-Stanak to arrange the student meeting with the Rainbow Caucus General Assembly.

During the meeting, students called on the Rainbow Caucus to consider an amendment in Vermont’s constitution enshrining LGBTQ equality to protect and support the community. In regards to Florida and Texas, they asked, how far will this go until the measures increase? 

Outright Vermont, a Burlington-based nonprofit that supports queer youths, and Montpelier Roxbury Public School’s Gender and Sexuality Alliance helped organize this event. Though the district GSA is student run, Ali Kuhlman, Sylvia Fagin, and Amanda Payne help as advisors. 

Sylvia Fagin, Montpelier High School’s GSA facilitator, said: “Youth know the impact of harmful legislation and supportive legislation. They understand it. They see it every day. They feel it every day. And they are willing to step up and lead. But we also need to give them the opportunity to be youth, and be kids. And we need to do our responsibility as adults to make these things the harmful bills aren’t passed and supportive bills are passed, so youth can be youth.”