Celebrities call for action on gay bullying in America

A gay rights group in America says President Barack Obama is not doing enough to combat gay bullying.

It's after a number of suicides there which are thought to have been down to homophobic abuse at school.

Now gay rights groups are putting pressure on schools to do something about the problem which is estimated to affect 90% of gay and lesbian youths.

Barack Obama, Madonna and Katie Perry have all spoken out against gay bullying in recent weeks.

Coming out

Joey Kemmerling loves to sing and while tapping away at his keyboard talking to Newsbeat, he leans back in his chair and hums a tune.

He was 13 years old when he told his mum he was gay.

In a small American town that can be a life changing, and life threatening, decision.

After he came out, his life at school darkened.

He went from being popular to having no friends and his heart ached.

He questioned his existence as those who were once close to him began calling him "faggot" and "queer fairy".

"One kid came up to me and told me, 'I'm going to light you on fire like the faggot you are' and then another said, 'I'm going to stab that faggot lifeless'," he said.

On a cold Tuesday morning in Newtown, Pennsylvania, it all got too much for Joey and he decided there was only one way out.

He sat down and planned his suicide.

"At 9.42am I was going to hang myself from the main school staircase so that when everyone walked by they would know what they put me through."

Luckily, Joey didn't go through with it.

But in recent months a string of teenage boys have committed suicide in America.

What they had in common was being tormented by bullying for being homosexual.

Celebrity backing

Tyler Clementi's story is one that resonates with victims of bullying.

The 18-year-old was a student at Rutgers University in New Jersey.

He jumped off George Washington Bridge in September after a video of him having sex with another man was apparently streamed on the internet by two students.

They are now facing charges of invasion of privacy.

Gay bullying has taken centre stage in the US news and celebrities including Madonna, Ellen DeGeneres, and Katie Perry have spoken out against it, saying it has to stop or more lives will be lost.

Barack Obama even joined a video campaign labelled "It Gets Better" which has been about informing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth (LGBT) to keep going because their lives will get better.

President Obama's critics say he needs to do more to convince the conservatives in Congress that legislation must be passed to allow schools to single out sexual orientation bullying as an issue, and then work out how to combat it.

Gender identity

The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) is a federal organisation that aims to ensure each member of every school is treated equally, no matter what their sexual orientation or gender identity.

According to them, 16 gay teenagers have committed suicide in the last four months.

Eliza Byard is the Executive Director of GLSEN.

She said: "Most important is that every school in this country must have an anti-bullying policy in place that specifically prohibits bullying and harassment on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

"We know when a school has that kind of policy in place, young people do better and in fact all forms of bullying in that school will go down."

A man Newsbeat spoke to in Newtown, Pennsylvania, ground his teeth and adjusted his cap uncomfortably as we asked him whether schools should do more to educate children about homosexuality.

He said: "Homosexuality is not a thing that is morally correct. It's condemned in the bible."