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Gay Positive Views Will Not be Censored, Salt
Lake School Officials Guarantee
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, December 2, 1999
(NEW YORK, December 2, 1999)--A federal judge has dismissed a student lawsuit against the
Salt Lake City school board because school officials have produced a definitive policy guaranteeing
the right to express pro-gay opinions, attorneys for the students said Thursday.
Lead counsel Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, the American Civil Liberties Union of
Utah, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights, representing the students, were pleased by the
judgment by United States Senior District Judge Bruce S. Jenkins.
Ruling in East High Gay/Straight Alliance v. Salt Lake City Board of Education late Tuesday,
Jenkins wrote that there was no need for future litigation due to the district’s declaration that
gay-positive views would not be censored.
"If nothing else, plaintiffs ... exacted the defendants’ reaffirmation that as a matter of policy,
gay-positive viewpoints as to matters relevant to the school curriculum may be freely expressed in
the existing forum at East and West High Schools," said Jenkins in his six-page order.
He added, "In light of the District’s affirmations made in open court and on the record, one may
expect the District to maintain a viewpoint-neutral forum, even without an injunction."
Additionally, Jenkins rejected the notion that gay issues are always inappropriate in schools,
saying, "[I]t would be naive at best to assume that expression of such views necessarily would
involve the advocacy or even the description of particular sexual behavior or practices. Concerns
about discussion of human sexuality in the public school setting have little bearing upon a
discussion of the role of gay and lesbian persons in the Holocaust or the orientation of various
historical or literary figures and its impact upon their lives and work."
Keysha Barnes, one of the named plaintiffs, said, "I”m happy because our case has made a
difference. This is a step in the right direction because students will feel safer being who they are."
The lawsuit was filed in March 1998, after the school board banned all non-curricular student groups
rather than allow the Gay/Straight Alliance (GSA) to meet. The students from both East and West
High School charged that the district infringed first amendment rights and violated a federal law in
refusing to allow the GSA to meet.
In October, Judge Jenkins agreed that the Board violated the Equal Access
Act –- a federal statute prohibiting public schools from picking and choosing
among non-curricular clubs –- because school officials continued to allow
some non-curricular clubs to meet even after those clubs had been banned.
He disagreed, however, with the students’ argument that the violation
In response to the students’ first amendment claims that the prohibition on gay-positive viewpoints
went beyond non-curricular clubs, the school board unexpectedly announced that students would
not be silenced if they tried to express gay-positive views because district policy and a statewide
regulation prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in schools.
With those guarantees in place, the judge determined that the students had obtained what they
had sought and dismissed the lawsuit.
"The future anticipated by the District’s unequivocal policy does not differ dramatically from the
future envisioned by plaintiffs’ prayer for relief" he said.