Metro Weekly

Utah students sue over law prohibiting LGBT references in schools

Lawyers for two public school students argue that the law violates the Constitution

Photo Credit: Kevin Goebel/flickr.

Two public school students are challenging Utah’s law prohibiting discussions or supportive speech about homosexuality in classrooms.

The students, who are represented by the National Center for Lesbian Rights, have asked for a preliminary injunction to prevent school districts from enforcing the law.

They argue that the law violates their First Amendment right to free speech, as well as the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, because the law discriminates based on sexual orientation by prohibiting the mere mention of homosexuality, transgenderism, or LGBT issues.

“Our state’s anti-gay school laws contribute to a chilling culture of silence that stigmatizes LGBTQ students and treats them differently from other students,” Troy Williams, the executive director of Equality Utah, said in a statement. “These anachronistic laws tell young people that who they are is so shameful that students and teachers cannot even acknowledge their existence in a supportive way.

“It is shocking for the law to single out a single group of students for such openly discriminatory and harmful treatment,” Williams continued. “We are bringing this lawsuit because we want LGBTQ youth know that they are seen, they are valued and that they belong in our schools and state just as much as other students do.”

The students also argue that the law is intended to express the state’s moral disapproval of homosexuality, which the U.S. Supreme Court has consistently found is not a legitimate basis for discrimination.

“Most people in Utah and other states recognize that discrimination against gay people has no place in our society,” Shannon Minter, legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, said in a statement. “The U.S. Supreme Court also held that a person’s sexual orientation cannot be the basis for treating people differently. The law are divisive and harmful, especially to students, and we look forward to the day when all students can participate equally and safely in Utah’s schools.”

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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