Lambda Legal Files Lawsuit Today on Behalf of Students at Lubbock High School Barred from Forming Gay Straight Alliance Group
(Lubbock,Texas, July 8, 2003) In court papers filed today, Lambda Legal is suing Lubbock Independent School District for barring students from forming a Gay Straight Alliance on campus and recognizing it as a legitimate school club.
“The Gay Straight Alliance group is being discriminated against and held to standards that other school groups aren’t, which is both wrong and unlawful. These students have a right to access the same resources as any other on campus school group. The law forbids this kind of discrimination and our recent Supreme Court victory only makes that clearer,” said Brian Chase, a Dallas-based Lambda Legal attorney on the case.
Ricky Waite, 18, who graduated from Lubbock High School in May, began to organize the Gay Straight Alliance in the fall of 2002. The group’s purpose is to provide support for gay and straight students and promote equality in the school system and community. Mirah Curzer, 16, a straight member of the group and plaintiff in the case, joined to support her friends and to show other straight students that fairness is important to everyone. After constructing a number of procedural roadblocks to try to prevent the Gay Straight Alliance from forming, school officials formally denied the group’s application.
“This is about treating students equally,” said Waite. “My friends deserve the same right to form a school group as any other student here.”
Lambda Legal argues that Lubbock High School is not only in violation of the Equal Access Act and the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, but is also violating the school’s own policy, which states regarding the formation of student groups that the school “shall not prohibit student expression solely because other students, teachers, administrators, or parents may disagree with its content.”
“When it struck down Texas’s ‘Homosexual Conduct’ law, the Supreme Court called for gay people to be given full respect, equality and dignity from government institutions. Lubbock High School runs afoul of that by treating this group differently simply because it supports gay students,” Chase said.
Under the Equal Access Act, secondary schools that receive federal funds and allow non-curricular student groups to meet on campus are prohibited from discriminating against any groups based on their viewpoints. Lambda Legal has successfully argued two other Gay Straight Alliance lawsuits, one in California and another in Utah, which set legal precedent in the area. There are now 1,200 such groups at schools across the nation.
In Colín v. Orange Unified School District Board, a school board denied the Gay Straight Alliance’s application to become a recognized student club and to meet at El Modena High School. A judge granted an injunction and Lambda Legal negotiated a settlement in 2000 that allowed the group to form within the same rules other student clubs must follow. In East High Gay Straight Alliance v. Board of Education, the Salt Lake City Board of Education banned all non-curricular clubs in an effort to avoid the creation of a Gay Straight Alliance. Lambda Legal argued the board decision violated the Equal Access Act and the U.S. Constitution’s Freedom of Expression, and the court agreed. Following the court decision, school officials rescinded their anti-gay policy in the fall of 2000.
Brian Chase, a staff attorney in Lambda Legal’s South Central Regional office, is handling the case. He is joined by cooperating attorneys at the Dallas firm of Baron & Budd.
Lambda Legal is a national organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgendered people, and people with HIV or AIDS through impact litigation, education and public policy work.
Contact: Lisa Hardaway, 212-809-8585 ext: 266; pgr: 888-987-1971