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In many places across the country, Gay-Straight Alliances are old news. I don’t mean “old news” as in “not needed,” I mean “old news” in that they hardly raise an eyebrow anymore.
Sometimes being a creep can also make you a loser. Or so Florida’s Nassau County School Board learned after their attempt to keep a Gay-Straight Alliance out of their Yulee High School failed.
When students at the school first tried to start a GSA they were told no. One of the reasons they were given was that it was not OK to use the word “gay” in the organization’s title. Why? Because having a group called the Gay-Straight Alliance violated the school’s sacred abstinence-only education curriculum. Because, you know, a GSA is a group of students who get together to have sex with each other on school property.
Actually, that’s not what a GSA is. According to the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, “Gay-Straight Alliances are student clubs that work to improve school climate for all students, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression.”
Basically, it’s a bunch of kids who want to stamp out homophobia, anti-gay harassment and discrimination in their schools. Some of the kids are gay, others aren’t, but all of them have been witness to or touched by anti-gay bias and want to do something to combat it.
Sounds pretty devious, eh? Well, to the Nassau County School Board it did. They rejected requests to form a GSA repeatedly at both the high school and middle schools.
In February, the students sued and the American Civil Liberties Union stepped in and was all, “Uh, you have to let the students form a GSA because of the federal Equal Access Act, which protects all extra-curricular clubs not just gay ones.” And the school board was all, “Well, then no extracurricular groups get to meet. I hope the gays are happy.”
Of course, no one was happy with this. In March a U.S. District Judge issued a preliminary injunction saying that the school had to let the GSA meet. On Aug. 14 U.S. district judge Henry Lee Adams issued a permanent injunction saying that the school couldn’t discriminate against the club and couldn’t put the smack down on people involved in the lawsuit.
“We started a Gay-Straight Alliance because we wanted a safe space where all students can talk about harassment and discrimination that LGBT students face,” said plaintiff Hannah Page. “We’re grateful that the court recognized that the GSA should be allowed to meet and be treated like any other club.”
“This is a victory for our clients, for the Yulee High GSA and indeed for gay and straight kids all across America,” said Robert Rosenwald, ACLU of Florida LGBT Advocacy Project Director and lead counsel for the students.
“Time and time again, we’ve seen discrimination and intolerance struck down by the courts in these cases, and for every school that wishes to cross the line, we’ll be here to defend the students.”
And what did the school board have to show for its hissy fit? A lot of bad press and about $40 grand in legal fees to dish out. Discrimination is expensive, in more ways than one.