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Case Summary & History

Youth

Case: Equality Utah v. Utah State Board of Education

STATUS: Pending | Utah

On October 21, 2016, Equality Utah and three students, represented by the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and the law firm of Ropes & Gray LLP, filed a federal lawsuit challenging state laws that ban positive speech about lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in Utah public schools.

The lawsuit—the first of its kind in the country to challenge such state laws—alleges that the laws violate the U.S. Constitution and federal education law by discriminating against LGBT people and restricting the First Amendment rights of students and teachers. The lawsuit also challenges a school district’s failure to protect a kindergarten student who was brutally harassed because of his gender non-conformity.

The lawsuit challenges several Utah laws and regulations that prevent positive portrayals of gay, lesbian, and bisexual people in curricula, classroom discussions, and student clubs. The lawsuit claims that these discriminatory restrictions create a negative environment for LGBT students, perpetuate discrimination and bullying, and contribute to the high rates of anti-LGBT harassment in Utah schools. For instance, one plaintiff experienced severe physical and verbal harassment from other students in his kindergarten class based on his gender non-conformity. When his parents complained to school leaders about the harassment, they were told that the school district could not protect their son because of these discriminatory school laws.

The lawsuit also describes the many other ways that these laws harm students and teachers, including preventing students from receiving accurate information about sexual orientation and LGBT people, even when it serves important educational purposes, and prohibiting teachers and students from sharing positive views of LGBT people. For example, one of the student plaintiffs was given a class assignment to give an oral family history report and wanted to report on his uncle’s marriage to his same-sex spouse, but was told he could not talk about his uncle in front of his classmates.

Download the Complaint.

 

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