"This is a groundbreaking, historic agreement that will be used as a model across the country to deal with these issues," says attorney Zachary Stephenson, who helped represent the students.


One of the conditions of the settlement is that Anoka-Hennepin is required to hire several consultants on sex discrimination and mental health. In the running for one of the positions is Jamie Nabozny, who has firsthand experience. Growing up in small-town Wisconsin, he was shoved into lockers, urinated on, and beaten so badly in a hallway that he had to have stomach surgery.

In 1996, Nabozny sued the school's administrators. His bully took the stand and testified that their principal knew about the violent abuse. The jury found that Nabozny deserved equal protection based on sexual orientation under the U.S. Constitution and awarded him almost $1 million.

"That hadn't been done before," says Hayley Gorenberg, deputy legal director at Lambda Legal, the national organization that represented Nabozny. "And still we're lacking a federal law that is specific on protection for students on the basis of sexual orientation."

Nabozny realized how little had changed since his experience and started speaking in schools two years ago. He's since received apologies from former classmates and even the children of his bullies.

"A lot of people in the country don't care if gay people have the right to marry — they didn't think too much about LGBT rights," Nabozny says. "Then people saw kids were killing themselves and said, 'Wait a minute, this isn't okay.'"

On a recent evening, Nabozny looked skeptically at his reflection in a multi-faceted mirror. He was dressed in a sleek black tuxedo coat.

"Can't we just wear suits?" he begged.

"No," answered Bo Shafer, the man standing next to him wearing a matching ivory tuxedo coat.

In September, Nabozny and Shafer are getting married in front of 150 guests, despite the fact that the nuptials will not be legally binding.

"We still have people who are very intolerant out there — they're fighting our right to be with who we want to be with, and love who we want to love," Nabozny says. "The marriage debate is much more heated and controversial. Protecting kids in school is not."

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