Magazine article The Progressive

The Backlash Stings

Magazine article The Progressive

The Backlash Stings

Article excerpt

The Salt Lake City school board isn't discriminating against lesbian and gay teens. It tried to, but couldn't get around the Federal Equal Access Act, which obliges schools to treat all non-academic student clubs equally. So the school board eliminated extracurricular organizations altogether.

Now students at Salt Lake City's East High School are blaming the kids who belonged to a group called the Gay-Straight Alliance. "Everyone suffers because of the gays," Brett Shields, a red-blooded member of the school's Beef Club, told The New York Times. Other students have started a group called SAFE: Students Against Faggots at East.

But it seems a gay-straight alliance is happening among Salt Lake City high-school students whether the school board wants it or not. Hundreds of marchers joined a February 23 protest at the Utah State Capitol to object to the ban. On the day of the march, the Utah Senate passed a bill prohibiting teachers from condoning "illegal conduct"--a ploy to discourage teacher supervision of gay and lesbian clubs.

Many school boards and local governments across the country are considering similar bans.

"There's been a dramatic rise in targeting classrooms," says Denny Lee, spokesperson for the American Civil Liberties Union's Lesbian and Gay Rights Project. "It has coincided with the rise of the radical right. It's been on their agenda to put gays and lesbians back in the closet. They realized that in some classrooms students are being taught that being gay is not the most horrible thing in the world, and they were horrified by that."

This isn't the first time the state of Utah has set a national precedent in its treatment of gay and lesbian citizens. Last year, the state enacted a law that nullifies same-sex marriage--just in case it were ever legalized.

Early this year, ten states introduced legislation to outlaw gay marriage before any state declares it legal. …

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