When Frankie Esquer formed the Gay Straight Alliance club at Carson High School as part of her senior project this year, she wasn’t sure how it would be received — especially after signs around school announcing the first meeting were torn down.
But in the months since it was formed, the club has grown to more than 60 members and on Wednesday, a group of seniors from the club was recognized by Assemblyman Andrew Martin as part of Equality Day at the Nevada Legislature.
“It’s just amazing,” Esquer said. “That’s the only word I’ve been able to say about this whole thing.”
The timing was especially significant as it coincides with arguments being heard in the U.S. Supreme Court to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples.
The Nevada Legislature is also considering a resolution to repeal a state constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman. In order to repeal the amendment, the resolution would need to be passed this year and again in 2015 before going to voters in 2016.
“It couldn’t be more perfect,” Esquer said. “I’m honored to be here, especially at a time like this.”
Club adviser Angila Golik said the time was right to form the club. She said a similar one was created five or six years ago, but fizzled quickly.
“Look how far we’ve come since then,” Golik said. “In that time, we’ve seen a pretty big shift.”
And the members, even those who are openly gay, are largely accepted by their peers outside the club.
Kenzie Tillitt, who came out to friends and family last year, was recently voted Carson High School’s Winterfest Queen.
She said it was important to her that her classmates know her sexual orientation.
“I felt the only way I could have a happy, fulfilled life is be 100 percent who I am,” she said. “For people to truly be my friend is to know who I am.”
While their relationship has since improved, Nicole Bertholf did not have such an easy time when she came out to her parents in middle school.
“They stopped speaking to me,” she recalled.
Seeing the change in her own family and among society over the years gives her hope, for herself and for fellow members of the club.
“To see them have the opportunity to be who they really are and not hide, makes me really proud,” she said. “I’m proud not just of them but of the politicians who support them.”
Tillitt said generations past have struggled for the right to be recognized, and that is on the cusp of happening.
“This could be a huge moment in American history,” she said. “We’re bringing to it the ability to have our voices be heard and not be ashamed. It’s time.”