!OutProud!, The National Coalition for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Youth, recognized the actions of the U.S. Supreme Court in upholding a lower court ruling that the Communications Decency Act (CDA) is unconstitutional as a significant step forward in ensuring the continued safety of the Internet for lesbigay youth. !OutProud! pioneered the use of the Internet and online services for outreach to youth and has long been active in working to ensure freedom of expression within the online community.
"We believe that the decision of the Court is a major milestone in guaranteeing that the Internet will continue to provide the supportive and nurturing environment for queer youth that it has become,"said Christopher Kryzan, Executive Director of !OutProud! "Their decision states very clearly that the parochial, petty prejudices of an uninformed minority cannot constrain freedom of expression within this worldwide community."
Under the CDA, the display or transmission of "indecent"or "patently offensive"material to minors would be a crime, punishable by two years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine. This would be particularly detrimental to agencies like !OutProud! providing services to queer youth, for example, because extremist organizations such as Concerned Women for America, the Christian Coalition and the Traditional Values Coalition identify anything which serves to tell lesbigay youth that they are "normal"as indecent.
"The Internet and America Online have played a crucial role in helping this generation of queer youth to acknowledge and accept their sexual orientation," Kryzan said. "They are, in effect, national resources for teens discovering their sexual orientation &emdash; an anonymous forum for youth who are scared to discuss their questions with others they know, the safety of a virtual meeting place, a community for those who are isolated and think that 'they're the only one.'"
!OutProud! plans to further expand its online outreach this July with the introduction of the Community Role Models program, designed to provide positive images of successful gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals in history and contemporary society.
In addition, !OutProud! will continue to monitor the impact of more insidious forms of suppression, such as implemented by "watchdog"programs designed as parental safeguards but that often block all gay-related pages by default. In 1995, efforts by !OutProud! led to policy changes at the parent firm of SurfWatch, one such program that originally blocked educational material relating to gay topics. These programs are often used to control program content presented to youth in school environments.
!OutProud!, The National Coalition for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Youth was founded in 1993 to provide advocacy, information, resources and support with the goal of helping lesbigay youth to become happy, successful, confident and vital gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender adults. The organization pioneered outreach to in-the-closet and openly lesbigay teens through America Online and the Internet, and today serves more than 100,000 youth each year with referrals and self-help resources, and activists and educators with organizing and training materials. !OutProud! is a non-profit organization and provides services both to individuals and to other agencies working for the benefit of queer youth.