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In a national first, LGBT advocates sue Utah schools over ‘anti-gay’ laws

First Published      Last Updated Oct 25 2016 02:51 pm

‘Culture of silence’ » Equality Utah says curriculum laws barring discussions of homosexuality in public schools violate First Amendment rights to free speech.
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"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," the lawsuit states.

And while Utah's laws appear primarily in the "instruction in health" section of state code, the Board of Education has adopted a rule that extends curriculum laws to "any course or class," broadly prohibiting speech, the lawsuit argues.

That makes it hard for teachers and students to know what they can and can't say, University of Utah law professor Cliff Rosky said.

"I don't know if you could even teach a class on this case," he said. "If a kid brings a newspaper clipping of this story to social studies, I'm not sure what the teacher is supposed to do."

Additionally, a Utah school-clubs law requires a ban on the formation of extracurricular school club, including gay-straight alliances, if their proposed activities would as "part of their conduct or means of expression … involve human sexuality," the lawsuit states, and requires clubs to follow laws prohibiting advocacy of homosexuality.

No similar bans, according to the lawsuit, would apply to clubs about heterosexuality, heterosexual persons or heterosexual issues.

"That discrimination harms LGBT students in a variety of ways," court papers say, "including by preventing them from participating equally in student clubs, stigmatizing them as inferior an unequal."


— Salt Lake Tribune reporter Mariah Noble contributed to this story