An LGBTQ advocacy organization in Utah has filed suit against the state over its so-called “No Homo Promo” laws, which forbid discussing homosexuality in any way that resembles advocacy, The Salt Lake Tribune is reporting.
At issue are a series of laws that, according to Equality Utah, violate teachers’ and students’ 1st Amendment rights to free speech, 14th Amendment rights to equal protection, and existing Utah and federal laws that forbid sex discrimination and guarantee equal access. Specifically, state law prohibits using teaching materials that include “advocacy of homosexuality” and require teaching of abstinence-only sex education, as well as prohibit using materials that “advocate sexual activity outside of marriage.” Further, the laws reference a now-obsolete law that defined marriage in Utah as a union between one man and one woman — a law that the courts have already deemed unconstitutional.
Equality Utah executive director Troy Williams said the laws — called the “no homo promo” laws or “don’t say ‘gay'” laws by LGBTQ advocates — send the wrong message to queer kids in Utah.
“It expressly stigmatizes queer students. It sends the message that our lives are something shameful, something that must be censored and erased. The time has come to end the stigma and strike ‘no promo homo’ from state law.”
The San Francisco-based National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) filed the lawsuit last week in Salt Lake City’s U.S. District Court on behalf of Equality Utah. Named as defendants in the lawsuit are the Utah Board of Education; State Superintendent Sydnee Dickson; and the Cache County, Jordan, and Weber school districts, where three queer students allege bullying took place at their schools. The plaintiffs are Equality Utah, a 7-year-old Weber County boy, a female middle school student, and a male high school student.
The first plaintiff is a 7-year-old Weber County boy who is gender non-conforming and sometimes prefers to wear girls’ clothes to school, and sometimes prefers to wear boys’ clothes. He claims that he suffered such severe anxiety from bullying at school that he was eventually forced to leave. Some of the alleged bullying includes being beaten by other students, as well as having his pants pulled down so the bullies could see his underwear.
The second plaintiff is a gay male high school student who claims to have endured bullying — including being called anti-gay slurs — since elementary school. He also claims that he was forbidden from talking about his uncle’s same-sex marriage at school.
The third plaintiff is lesbian high-school student who says that, in middle school, she was “selectively punished” by school officials for holding hands with another girl. Now in high school, she claims that her current school has forbidden her from asking questions about homosexuality in her high school health class.
“These laws prevent presentation of accurate information concerning lesbian, gay, bisexual people in health classes and other classes, even when such information serves important educational purposes, while imposing no similar restriction on discussion of heterosexuality.”
Utah is not the only state with laws on the books that prevent homosexuality from being discussed in public schools — either in a way that appears to advocate it, or at all, according to Think Progress. Specifically, Alabama, Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Texas all have legislation on the books that makes discussing homosexuality in public schools a criminal offense.
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