LGBT groups sue Utah State Board of Education over ‘anti-gay school laws’

ST. GEORGE – A lawsuit against the Utah State Board of Education was filed by a pair of LGBT rights advocacy groups Friday. In the lawsuit, Equality Utah and the National Center for Lesbian Rights challenge state law that prohibits discussion in public schools that appears to advocate homosexuality or even speak positively to it.

Based on what some lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights groups are calling Utah’s “No Promo Homo” law, the lawsuit argues the First and 14th amendments of teachers and students are being violated by limiting their rights of free speech, equal protection and free access.

The law, often referred to as “anti-gay school laws” in the lawsuit, also creates a negative environment for LBGT youth, the lawsuit states.

Such laws foster school climates that stigmatize and isolate LGBT youth,” the lawsuits states, “putting them at heightened risk of bullying and discouraging and preventing them from participating openly and equally in school activities.”

Along with Equality Utah and the National Center of Lesbian Rights, other plaintiffs include three students in the state’s public school system who are listed as “John Doe,” James Doe” and Jessie Doe” due to their being minors.

John Doe is a 7-year-old who the lawsuit states was a student in the Weber School District and was harassed in kindergarten due to being a non-gender conforming boy.

James Doe is a gay teen who attends school in the Cache County School District. According to the lawsuit, he has also been bullied and harassed in school. Due to the state laws against advocating homosexuality in school, the lawsuit states, he was unable to give a report on his family in school which would have included information about an uncle who is in a same-sex marriage.

“Because of the teacher’s resistance to his choice of his uncle, James ultimately chose to present a report about his grandmother instead,” the lawsuit states.

Jane Doe, who is described as a lesbian teen, also currently attends a public high school and states in the lawsuit that she was singled out in middle school and disciplined for holding another girl’s hand.

“Since then, Jane has been afraid to speak about her identity and ask questions about LGBT issues because she might get in trouble again,” the lawsuit states.

The topic of homosexuality is not covered in the curriculum used in pubic school health classes due to the state law, according to the lawsuit. It also states that same-sex marriage is not to be discussed class, yet the concept of marriage being between a man and a woman only is reinforced.

State law that prohibited same-sex marriage in Utah was struck down by as unconstitutional by a federal judge in December 2014 and later upheld nationwide by the Supreme Court in June 2015.

“These laws prevent presentation of accurate information concerning lesbian, gay, and bisexual people in health class and other classes even when such information serves important educational purposes, while imposing no similar restrictions on discussion of heterosexuality or heterosexual people,” according to the lawsuit.

“These discriminatory laws are outdated, harmful, and blatantly unconstitutional,” attorney Douglass Hallward-Dremeier said in a statement. “They serve no purpose other than to isolate and stigmatize young people who deserve to be fully supported and embraced.”

As a partner of Ropes & Gray law firm, Hallward-Dremeier argued before the U.S. Supreme Court in Obergefell v. Hodges, which struck down state laws barring same-sex couples from marrying. The law firm will  be representing Equality Utah and the three students in the case.

Troy Williams, executive director for Equality Utah, called the laws “especially odious,” according to Fox 13 News.

“These are some of the last remaining anti-LGBT laws that are currently being enforced in the country,” Williams said, “and they’re especially odious, because they explicitly apply to school classes on every subject.”

These laws send a message that our lives are shameful and must be hidden and censored,” Williams continued. “They create a deadly culture of silence and non-acceptance, causing harms that can never fully be undone. The time has come to end the stigma and strike down this shameful law.”

The lawsuit list the defendants as the Utah State Board of Education, Sydnee Dickson in her capacity as the State Superintendent of Public Instruction of the State of Utah and the Cache County, Jordan and Weber school districts and related school boards.

According to Fox 13 News, the Utah Attorney’s Office, which represents the Utah State Board of Education, declined to comment on the lawsuit Friday evening.

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Email: mkessler@stgnews.com

Twitter: @MoriKessler

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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11 Comments

  • Bob October 24, 2016 at 3:37 pm

    when the lgbtq-rsxyz groups runs out of victim cards to play we’ll see some sort of “trangender advocacy” group pop up with a whole new deck of them

    • .... October 26, 2016 at 5:05 am

      A deck of them beats one of you

  • r2d2 October 24, 2016 at 4:31 pm

    They ought to just make everything legal. Rape, prostitution, incest and the list goes on. just don’t talk about God in the schools.

    • ladybugavenger October 24, 2016 at 8:53 pm

      It’s a shame, C3PO, I mean r2d2 :p

      Put God back in schools!
      God has been taken out of this country, real dark times are coming.

  • r2d2 October 24, 2016 at 9:24 pm

    I think if God was back in schools there would be a lot less crime, shootings, drugs.

  • .... October 24, 2016 at 11:23 pm

    r2d2 I have no problem with that. but good luck getting every religion to agree on who’s God will be in school because I guarantee you that’s not going to fly with certain religious groups !

    • ladybugavenger October 25, 2016 at 12:40 pm

      Oh yes of course Hillary would want the Muslims God in schools. #MuslimsarenotChristians There is only one God and Jesus is the son of God…..and all my haters I already know there are many Christian churches that are cults and don’t let Jesus in to their church.

  • theone October 25, 2016 at 10:57 am

    You so called loving religious muddled minds just can’t find it in your heart to accept people as they are. You instead embrace any rule that discriminates against a class of people your fairy tale dictates. I find it revealing in how you twist something up to make it seem far worse than it is, like the rape etc. Bob referred to. Your God belongs in your mind and homes, school is for education period.

    “The purpose of education is not to validate ignorance, but to overcome it”.
    Lawrence Krauss

  • r2d2 October 25, 2016 at 4:50 pm

    Lawrence Maxwell Krauss, “what a nut”. Many people said that.

  • ladybugavenger October 26, 2016 at 10:34 am

    theone ( have I mentioned that’s my ex husbands middle name and his grandpa’s first name?) Any hoo…you have a point and it’s a good oone….bring education back in schools…..however with all this nonsense and rights people want, everything is offending everyone they have no clue what to teach children anymore.

    I don’t know what made you angry at Jesus, but there was a time you didn’t deny him. Even the devil knows the Bible and Jesus and gets angry at His name…..God bless you theone.

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