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The two pieces of legislation would require school officials across the country to address bullying and harassment aimed at gay students, and Aiken made an impassioned plea for lawmakers to pass the bills.

And he used his own childhood experiences of bullying as an example of why homosexual youngsters need safeguarding.

He told the hearing, "Like many kids now in middle schools and high schools, I was bullied. I was picked on, I was called gay, I was called f**, I was called sissy, you name it. Fortunately, I was able to overcome it and live through it because of a number of friends who were supportive of me...

"We need federal leadership from Congress to encourage all states and districts and each and every school to create safe learning environments where all students can learn and succeed."