Legislative News: Bill that targets gay clubs in schools goes to governor

Published February 27, 2007 1:47 am
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2007, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Lawmakers gutted it and then restored it.

Passed it and then pulled it back.

No bill has been tweaked more than the one targeting gay support clubs in high schools but also affecting many other student groups.

The tinkering ended Monday with a final compromise among Republicans.

Over the objections of Democrats, the House sent the bill, sponsored by Springville Republican Rep. Aaron Tilton, to the desk of Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.

Huntsman has an interest in the bill because he has high-school aged children and he worries many of the provisions are already in local school board rules. He opposed the measure when lawmakers debated it last year, but he wouldn't say whether he would sign this year's version.

"I'll take a look at it," he said.

Tilton and Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan, have pushed the bill that would set a statewide policy for all clubs.

They faced heavy opposition, even from some Republicans, because of the long list of requirements students would have to meet to start a club.

But in a conference committee, Tilton and Buttars agreed to remove many of the proposed regulations. No longer would students have to submit a club application by Oct. 15 and that application would not have to include a constitution or bylaws. Students would have to state the purpose of the club and its budget, if any.

Tilton and Buttars are pushing the bill for different reasons.

Tilton champions the parental consent portion of the legislation, that would require students to get their parents' signature before joining a group. Also, parents could review material presented to the club the day after a meeting.

Buttars, on the other hand, hopes to give administrators the ability to block clubs such as the Gay Straight Alliance without fearing a massive legal bill. He expects the attorney general's office to handle any lawsuits that would stem from a school district blocking a club.

Tilton believes federal law would not allow administrators to block Gay Straight Alliances.

Sen. Scott McCoy, D-Salt Lake City, doesn't believe such a lawsuit would be successful, but he fully expects a school to try to block a club and he expects that group to then sue the school.

He said "the hook" is a requirement that clubs could not violate "the boundaries of socially appropriate behavior." The legislation makes no attempt to define the term.

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