June 29, 2011 at 2:09 PM ET
Five days after its state legislature made New York the largest of six states to legalize gay marriage, 13 Democratic senators shared their contribution to It Gets Better, the award-winning video archive project launched almost one year ago in an effort to give hope to lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgendered kids facing harassment and considering suicide.
With high production values and sweeping background music similar to the It Gets Better contributions from Google and Apple, the black and white video alternates clips of each senator's words of comfort and encouragement. But beyond the language of film making — the angles, edits and soundtrack chosen to make the viewer weepy — consider what this video means.
Top U.S. law makers state clearly and without artifice: It is wrong to treat minorities like third class citizens and we are working to give the gay community its full civil rights.
Unveiled Wednesday at a Capitol press conference in Washington DC, the 5-minute videohighlights the senators' work on gay rights issues, including the "Don't Ask Don't Tell" repeal and "The Respect for Marriage Act," which would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and provide to gay couples the federal tax benefits currently available to married couples.
Participating senators include Chris Coons (DE), Mark Udall (CO), Ron Wyden (OR), Richard Blumenthal (CT), Sherrod Brown (OH), Maria Cantwell (WA), Dick Durbin (IL), Al Franken (MN), Dianne Feinstein (CA), Kirsten Gillibrand (NY), Charles Schumer (NY), Jeanne Shaheen (NH) and Sheldon Whitehouse (RI).
Several of the senators in this video previously submitted solo contributions, including Franken who is featured in the project's book published earlier this year: "It Gets Better: Coming Out, Overcoming Bullying, and Creating a Life Worth Living."
Dan Savage, editorial director of the Seattle alt-weekly The Stranger and author of the syndicated column "Savage Love," launched It Gets Better with his partner Terry Miller last September. Moved by a series of suicides by youth who reportedly suffered homophobic harassment, Savage invited gay, bisexual and transgendered adults to post videos sharing their coming-out and coming-of-age stories, and how their lives definitely got better after high school.
While support for those bullied regardless of orientation exists en masse, It Gets Better serves a small percentage of youth that have a disproportionate number of runaways and suicides. It's the most widely publicized outreach program for LGBT kids, a traditionally underserved group that faces unique circumstances. They are likely bullied by their parents, church or teachers, as well as their peers. Even the government denies this demographic its full civil rights.
Video contributions are still on YouTube, but It Gets Better now has its own own website, which houses thousands of contributions from LGBT adults of all ages, heterosexuals sharing their support, and politicians and celebrities from President Barack Obama to Lady Gaga.
In association with It Gets Better, Savage received the Webby Award for Achievement and the Sidney Hillman Award for socially conscious journalism. Certainly there is no U.S. citizen who deserves — at the very least — a Nobel Peace Prize nomination in recognition of the cultural advances he's made. Because of Savage, U.S. leaders made this record of not just hope, but definitive action. It's a message not just to children, but the entire country and the world.
When speaking of It Gets Better, Savage often quotes Harvey Milk, the assasinated San Francisco Board of Supervisors member and first openly gay politician to be elected in California, "You've got to give 'em hope." It Gets Better has borne out, without hyperbole: Savage picked up Milk's mantle and ran.
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