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Gay/Straight Alliance’s Lawsuit to Proceed
Against Salt Lake School Board -- Utah Federal Judge Says
Barring Student Group may have Violated the First Amendment
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 8, 1999
SALT LAKE CITY -- Ruling that the Salt Lake City Board of Education violated a federal statute and also may have
violated the First Amendment, a Utah federal district judge has given the green light to gay and
straight students suing the Board for trying to ban meetings of their student club and suppressing
gay-positive views in existing and new student groups.
"The First Amendment protects expression of all viewpoints, regardless of either their popularity or
lack of general acceptance, or even the fears that particular opinions may engender," Federal
District Judge Bruce S. Jenkins wrote in his 55-page ruling on summary judgment motions released
Lambda Supervising Attorney Jon W. Davidson and Staff Attorney David S. Buckel argued the
motions for the students. Lead counsel Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, the American
Civil Liberties Union of Utah, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights filed the lawsuit on behalf of
the East High School Gay/Straight Alliance (GSA) and two of its members.
Plaintiff Ivy Fox, a senior at East High and co-president of the GSA, said following the ruling, "It
feels great that the judge recognized a violation of our rights, and said that we get to have our day
Because the students’ first amendment rights may have been violated, Jenkins moved their lawsuit
forward to trial. He also ruled that the Board had violated the federal Equal Access Act, since at
least one non-curricular club was allowed to meet in the 1997-1998 school year, when the lawsuit
But Jenkins disagreed with plaintiffs’ contention that the Board allowed non-curricular groups to
meet in subsequent school years. That issue will be appealed after trial of the first amendment
claims, unless the Board decides to modify its policies, which the plaintiffs have been asking it to
do throughout the dispute.
Under the Equal Access Act, a federally funded public school that provides access to any
non-curricular club - such as use of the public address system and school bulletin boards - must
also provide equal treatment to all other non-curricular clubs, regardless of the views of those clubs’
members. Schools cannot pick and choose among non-curricular clubs.
In April 1996, the Board terminated 46 school clubs it deemed not directly linked to the curriculum
including Students Against Drunk Driving and the Young Republicans, in an effort to keep an earlier
GSA from meeting.
Alliances of gay and straight students have become increasingly common at schools around the
country, often forming in response to anti-gay hostility and violence from other students. Fox has
reported that forming their group helped to reduce some of the anti-gay harassment at her high