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The New School Year Brings Legal Challenges to LGBTQ Representation

Health and Gender Policy Brief #143 | By: Geoffrey Small | September 16, 2022

Header photo taken from: Lucy Jones / The Atlantic

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LGBTQ clubs were havens for students. Now they’re under attack. Earlier this year, teenage leaders of a high school GSA club in Minnesota faced adult opposition when they tried to hang "Safe Space" signs at school.

Photo taken from: Jenn Ackerman / The Washington Post

Policy Summary

A 2020 Connecticut University study indicated that having a GSA (gay–straight alliances) program in school can help mitigate LGBTQ students’ concerns about bias. The study, which conducted surveys with LGBTQ students, reported that individuals were bullied less on topics related to their sexual identity and gender in schools that had GSA programs. As students are returning to their education across the country, there are currently legal challenges being waged in U.S. Congress, The Supreme Court, and local municipalities regarding LGBTQ representation. 

The Equality Act, a new law supporting LGBTQ rights, is currently stalled in the Senate after it was approved twice in the House of Representatives over the past two years. The Supreme Court issued a ruling on an injunction that recognized an LGBTQ club at Yeshiva University in New York. Also, the Miami-Dade County Public School Board in Florida reversed a decision made last year to formally recognize October as LGBTQ History Month.

Policy Analysis

On September 14th, 2022, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of GSA program YU Pride Alliance regarding an injunction that requires Yeshiva University to immediately recognize the LGBTQ club while the case is argued before New York state courts. The case is currently in the appeal process after YU Pride won their argument. The state courts ruled in June that the University was incorporated as an educational institution and not a religious institution. 

Therefore, Yeshiva should immediately recognize the GSA program under New York City’s human rights laws. The injunction was temporarily halted on September 9th by Justice Sonya Sotomayor after an amicus brief was filed by the NCLA (New Civil Liberties Alliance), claiming that the New York ruling infringed upon the University’s religious liberty. In response to the Supreme Court decision, Yeshiva University has reportedly announced  they will halt all student clubs until further notice.

On September 7th, the The Miami-Dade County Public School Board in Florida voted 8 to 1 on reversing its decision to support October’s LGBTQ History Month


Current and former Yeshiva University students sued to force the school to recognize an LGBTQ club on campus. Students argue that the school not officially recognizing the club is discriminatory and violates New York’s human rights law.

Photo taken from: YU Pride Alliance

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The reversal was made after hours of testimony during a public hearing from members of the community, parents of school children, and Christian coalitions. The change in the board’s decision comes after Governor Ron DeSantis signed the Florida’s Parental Rights Act in March. 

 

 

The law forbids education in sexual orientation and gender identity for students in kindergarten to third grade. 

Despite the school board members citing DeSantis’ new law as the reasoning behind the reversal, the school board attorney reported to local WSVN Miami that recognizing LGBTQ History Month would not be a conflict because it isn’t defined as mandated instruction.

GSA programs and LGBTQ advocates are still challenging the legal arguments that religious liberty takes priority over LGBTQ rights. Since YU Pride Alliance is not recognized as an organization from Yeshiva University, they rely on gofundme donations to conduct meetings and publicity that are normally provided for undergraduate clubs. 

Also, a donation to the LGBTQ History Month organization can help spread the message of equal representation for recognizing community icons during the month of October.

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