On March 28, 2019, Equality Arizona, represented by National Center for Lesbian Rights and Lambda Legal, along with law professor Clifford Rosky and pro bono counsel Perkins Coie LLP, filed a federal lawsuit challenging Arizona’s anti-LGBTQ curriculum law, which bars public school students from receiving medically accurate, age-appropriate information about non-heterosexual people in their health education classes. Arizona law prohibits instruction in HIV/AIDS curriculum that “[p]romotes a homosexual life-style,” “[p]ortrays homosexuality as a positive alternative life-style,” or “[s]uggests that some methods of sex are safe methods of homosexual sex.”
The lawsuit alleges that the anti-LGBTQ curriculum law, which was enacted in 1991, violates the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution by singling out a group of students for unequal treatment based on their sexual orientation. The law harms LGBTQ students by preventing educators from including or discussing them in a positive light, and it fosters a climate of hostility and harassment against LGBTQ students. The anti-LGBTQ curriculum law also endangers the health and lives of LGBTQ students by forbidding medically accurate and age-appropriate information, especially as the rate of new HIV diagnoses in Arizona has increased in recent years.
The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona on behalf of Equality Arizona, a non-profit organization that advocates for the equality of LGBTQ people. The organization includes student members, two of whom are described in the complaint. One student, referred to by the anonymous initials, “A.A.,” is a gay freshman in a greater Phoenix high school. Another student, Santi Ceballos, who is identified by the initials S.C. and is also named as a plaintiff, is a seventh-grade student at a middle school in Tucson.
On April 11, 2019, exactly two weeks after the lawsuit was filed, Governor Doug Ducey signed into law an amendment that repealed the anti-LGBTQ curriculum law. Kathy Hoffman – the Arizona Superintendent of Public Education and a defendant in the lawsuit – herself acknowledged that the law needed to be repealed, and she in fact welcomed the filing of the lawsuit. There had been repeated failed legislative efforts to repeal the law before the legislature’s historic vote following the lawsuit.
On May 20, 2019, as the final step in resolving the lawsuit, the state Board of Education voted to repeal language in a state regulation, which was also challenged in the lawsuit, that required sex education classes “to promote honor and respect for monogamous hetereosexual marriage.”