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Utah’s No Promo Homo law is now history

Written by Troy Williams

Last year Equality Utah and three student plaintiffs filed a lawsuit against the State Board of Education to challenge Utah’s No Promo Homo law. For nearly two decades, this law prohibited Utah students and teachers from discussing “homosexuality” in our state’s public schools. Today, we are pleased to announce that we have reached a final settlement with the State Board and the Attorney General’s office.

In response to our lawsuit, the Utah Legislature repealed the state’s No Promo Homo law with SB 196. The vote was nearly unanimous.

The Utah State Board of Education has issued a letter to all Utah public and charter schools to clarify the intent of SB 196. The letter expresses the Board’s desire to ensure that “each student in Utah public schools receives a high-quality education free from all manner of discrimination, which can take the form of bullying, based on religion, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and gender identity.” Further, the letter directs all public and charter schools to revise their policies to align with the Board’s new directive, including the Board’s “intent to prohibit discrimination against all Utah’s students.”  You can read the State Board’s letter here.

This is a remarkable achievement. In our country’s history, Utah is only one of two states that has ever repealed a No Promo Homo law.  The other state is California.  That’s right: Utah and California are now marching together, leading our nation, protecting queer youth.

Now that the State Board of Education has clarified that discrimination against LGBTQ students will not be tolerated, our lawsuit can end. Our attorneys have filed a motion with the court requesting that Judge Benson close the case.

We want to thank the Utah State Board of Education for their strong statement in support of all Utah students. We also want to thank Senator Adams and the Utah Legislature for taking decisive and fair action on this issue. We are grateful to our legal team at the nonprofit National Center for Lesbian Rights and the international law firm of Ropes & Gray. They tirelessly offered their services pro bono to advance this effort. We also want to recognize Professor Clifford Rosky, Equality Utah’s legal advisor, whose research and analysis laid the foundation for our lawsuit and the legislature’s repeal.  You can read Professor Rosky’s article on anti-gay curriculum laws here.

Finally, we want to thank our three courageous plaintiffs, Katy Smith-Gish, Josh Greer and Kaiden Turkel. By telling their stories, they risked being identified, targeted, and bullied.  They risked it all, to stand up for us, and they turned the tide.

Without these brave young leaders, we could not have brought an end to No Promo Homo. It was our great thrill to present them with Equality Utah’s Allies Awards last weekend.

And one last thanks to all of you, who supported our efforts by sharing your stories, volunteering and donating your resources to make this possible. We couldn’t have done it without all of you.

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Troy Williams

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