Lambda Legal Sees Rise in Hostility Toward Gay Youth Since Election

Thu. December 9, 2004 12:00 AM

Lambda Legal Expands Its Education Campaign to 'Hot Spots' in Missouri, Utah, Alabama, Iowa, Texas

New York City - Concerned that gay youth are increasingly being denied their legal rights at school in the aftermath of last month's election, Lambda Legal said today that it is expanding its ongoing campaign on youth rights to communities where students have faced antigay hostility in recent weeks.

In Missouri, Utah, Alabama, Iowa and Texas, Lambda Legal is asking local television and radio stations to air public service announcements about the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) youth in school. Lambda Legal is also reaching out to state and local organizations in the communities, to provide comprehensive materials that educate youth and schools about their rights and obligations.

"We're alarmed by a noticeable increase in gay youth facing discrimination or hostility in just the last month since the election. While we've just been through a very contentious national election that focused a great deal on the rights of gay couples, that can't be allowed to threaten the well established rights of gay youth to be out, safe and respected in schools," said Michael Adams, Director of Education and Public Affairs at Lambda Legal. "The rights of gay youth are very clear, and they're not up for public debate. We see an urgent need to get this message out in communities where gay youth have experienced problems since the election, and that's exactly what we're doing."

Lambda Legal cited five specific incidents in just the last month, all in communities where the organization is now reaching out with its education campaign. They include:

School dance controversy in Salt Lake City, Utah

A high school in the Salt Lake City suburbs created a new policy requiring students to get written permission from their parents if they want to take a same-sex date to a school dance. Students bringing a different-sex date to a dance aren't required to get any permission from their parents.

Gay pride t-shirt dispute in Webb City, Missouri

A high school punished a gay student for wearing t-shirts with gay pride messages and then banned him from wearing the shirts to school again, even though antigay clothing and bumper stickers are common among other students at the school. The ACLU filed a federal lawsuit on the student's behalf.

Textbooks referencing "marriage" in Texas

The Texas Board of Education wouldn't approve new health textbooks for high school and middle school students unless major textbook publishers agreed to change the wording to explicitly define marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

Legislation banning gay-themed materials and speakers in Alabama

A state legislator introduced a bill to prohibit the use of public funds for the purchase of school textbooks or library materials "that recognize or promote homosexuality as an acceptable lifestyle" and would also prohibit teachers from distributing materials or hosting classroom speakers who suggest homosexuality is acceptable.

School board policy in Iowa blocking book with gay character from being read in classes

A school board in Pleasant Valley, Iowa, passed a policy that prevents teachers from reading a book with a gay character in class. A local teacher had read the book, The Misfits, to classes in recent years in an effort to prevent name-calling in school.

In each city and state, Lambda Legal is asking local ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, WB and UPN affiliates, as well as a range of local radio stations (including alternative rock, country and Spanish-language stations) to air PSAs that give factual information about LGBTQ youth rights and how people in these communities can get assistance or more in-depth material.

In a letter to local stations in the communities where youth have recently experienced antigay hostility, Lambda Legal said, "This PSA increases awareness, information and understanding that is clearly lacking - and badly needed - in your community … This PSA is already running on stations around the country, including in St. Louis, Atlanta, Chicago, Houston and elsewhere. But it's needed most in your community, as evidenced by recent events."

In late September, Lambda Legal launched "Out, Safe & Respected," a large-scale public awareness campaign that targets a dozen major cities nationwide with television and radio PSAs and reaches youth, adults and allies nationwide with community outreach and comprehensive materials. Lambda Legal's PSA and toolkit on youth rights are online at cities where the campaign is already active include: Atlanta, Dallas, Miami, Washington, DC, St. Louis, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Houston, Detroit, Albuquerque and Denver.