Equality Utah sues education department over anti-LGBT curriculum law

Elder L. Tom Perry, left, of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Quorum of the Twelve Apostles shakes hands with Equality Utah executive director Troy Williams after Utah lawmakers introduced a landmark anti-discrimination bill that protects LGBT individuals while also carving out protections for the Boy Scouts of America and religious groups during a news conference at the Utah State Capitol Wednesday, March 4, 2015, in Salt Lake City.Photo: Rick Bowmer, AP

Equality Utah filed a first-of-its-kind lawsuit Friday against the state’s education office, challenging a curriculum law that prohibit discussing homosexuality in a positive way, the Salt Lake City Tribune reports.

The suit argues that the law violates First Amendment free speech protections as well 14th Amendment right to equal protection.

“The anti-gay school laws were enacted in order to express moral disapproval of ‘homosexuality’ and of LGBT persons,” court papers say. “They do not serve any legitimate state interest.”

Utah is one of eight states with so-called “no promo homo” laws, but the only one where such legislation has ben challenged in court.

“It could set the precedent for the striking down these laws nationally,” Chris Stoll, attorney for the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), told the Tribune.

The lawsuit is being brought by NCLR on behalf of Equality Utah and three students — a gender non-conforming 7-year-old who got beaten up and harased by kindergarten classmates for wearing a dress, a gay high school who has suffered ongoing bullying, and a lesbian student who was punished for holding hands with a girl.

Because the ban on discussing homosexuality in the classroom is so broad, critics say it has created confusion about teachers and students are allowed to discuss.

“I don’t know if you could even teach a class on this case,” University of Utah law professor Cliff Rosky told the Tribune. “If a kid brings a newspaper clipping of this story to social studies, I’m not sure what the teacher is supposed to do.”

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