Thursday, October 27, 2016

Title IX Used to Challenge Anti-Gay Utah Law

This week LGBT rights activists in Utah filed a lawsuit challenging state law that prohibits schools from including instruction on the advocacy of homosexuality in the curriculum, which the state Board of Education has interpreted to apply broadly to "any course or class." The lawsuit also targets provisions of state law that withhold support and recognition from student clubs whose activities involve or express "human sexuality." The lawsuit's primary arguments are that by singling out homosexuality for exclusion from the curriculum, and LGBT groups for the withholding of school support, Utah's laws violate students' constitutional rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments, including equal protection, free speech and association, and the right to receive information. In addition to the constitutional claims, the lawsuit argues that the anti-gay state laws force local school districts, some of which are defendants, to violate Title IX by foreclosing LGBT students' rights to equal educational opportunities. The lawsuit charges that the state law violates Title IX because it forces school districts to "foster a hostile and censoring environment of silence and non-acceptance for LGBT students" and by "subjecting them to stigma and harassment based on sex, including actual or perceived gender non-conformity, being in a same-sex relationship, or being transgender." The lawsuit also claims that one of the school district defendants violated Title IX by ignoring severe harassment that students directed at one of the plaintiffs in the case, whom they perceived to be gay, a claim that helps illustrate the potential for discrimination in the curriculum to negatively affect school climate in ways that cause tangible injuries to LGBT students.