Sen. Buttars Seeks to Ban Gay-Straight Clubs

Sen. Buttars Seeks to Ban Gay-Straight Clubs

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Richard Piatt ReportingA Utah State Senator wants to stop 'Gay-Straight Alliance' clubs in the state's public schools, but would banning them violate students' constitutional rights?

Right now 14 of the state's 40 school districts allow 'Gay Straight Alliance' clubs. They're meant to be a place where students who feel out of the mainstream can go to socialize.

In 1996 Salt Lake City's East High School banned its Gay Straight Alliance club. A lawsuit went all the way to the 10th circuit court of appeals. The club eventually reinstated on the basis of federal equal protection laws.

But Senator Chris Buttars cites state law in his argument to ban the clubs. He says there is a statute that limits clubs to protect students. In fact, he says clubs can be limited if they encourage certain conduct, or involve human sexuality.

Sen. Chris Buttars, (R) West Jordan: "If you're in a chess club, you're going to be talking about chess. If you're in a dance club you're going to be talking about dance. If you're in a gay club you're going to be talking about human sexuality, and that's illegal, in fact it's criminal."

But Gay-Straight Alliance supporters say the East High School case settled the federal equal access issue, which trumps state law. Aside from that, there may be other issues with changing state law.

Today, at his monthly news conference, Governor Huntsman said he sees a 'local control' issue on this topic.

Gov, Huntsman: "I do believe this is an issue that should be dealt with on the localest of levels. Parents dealing with kids, parents dealing with school boards."

The bottom line is, Senator Buttars isn't sure exactly what he wants his bill to be, but he thinks a ban on the clubs is appropriate. Likewise, the Utah ACLU is also on the move, prepared to challenge any such legislation in court.

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