Friday, December 16, 2005

Gay-Straight Alliances are a 'local issue'

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According to an article published by the Governor of Utah, Jon Huntsman Jr., has responded to an anti-gay state senator who has announced he will introduce legislation to ban gay-straight student clubs, commonly known as 'gay-straight alliances'. A day after Sen. Chris Buttars said that gay-straight alliances should be banned from the schools ('These clubs are not about sex'), Gov. Huntsman said that it should be up to the local schools and parents as to whether or not such groups should be allowed. According to the article:
Huntsman, also a Republican, said during the taping of his monthly press conference televised on KUED Channel 7 that the question of whether the state needs to step in and take the clubs out of public schools has already been answered by the courts. "It was deliberated and finalized," the governor said of the legal wrangling over the first attempt at forming a gay-straight alliance in Utah at East High in 1995. The legal battle ended when the Salt Lake City Board of Education decided to allow all types of clubs to meet. "I do believe that these are issues that should be taken care of at the localest of levels — parents dealing with kids, and parents dealing with school boards, if they have a concern," Huntsman said. "I am not sure whether this necessarily should be handled at the state level." After the taping, the governor told reporters he preferred to talk with his own children about gay-related issues. But Huntsman, who has two children attending East High, said he had no problem with the school's having a gay-straight alliance. "This is something I would discuss with my kids individually, within our home. That would be my preference. But other parents might be different," he said. Some might feel their children need such a club, the governor said. "Maybe some people do. I can't speak for all kids. I wouldn't want to dictate an outcome to all parents. I think it's a sensitive enough issue for parents to try to deal with in ways they are most comfortable with," he said. Martin Bates, assistant to the superintendent on legal issues and policy in Granite School District, agrees the issue remains in the hands of school districts. "I think it's really powerful when local board members make a decision and go home at the end of the board meeting and answer to their neighbors about it," Bates said.
AS stated in an earlier post of mine, the Federal Equall Access Act, created in 1984, restricts schools from censoring student clubs based upon their philosophical, religious or political ideologies. As the 1995 gay-straight alliance lawsuit in Utah points out, any attempt to restrict the formation of gay-straight alliances, or any other student club, will surely lose. The Governor of Utah should be thanked for taking this more neutral stance toward the issue of gay-straight alliances. For once, a poltician is not just simply "playing the game". It would have been very easy for the Governor to take the more anti-gay side on this issue for the sake of his political career, but he didn't. Sen. Buttars push for his new legislation was sparked by the formation of a gay-straight alliance at Provo High School earlier this school year. Technorati Tags: , , , , , , ,