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LGBTQ Youth Fight For Equality In Sex Ed In South Carolina Classrooms

A group of LGBTQ students is suing South Carolina’s Superintendent of Education to repeal a 32-year-old state law making it illegal for teachers to address LGBTQ relationships unless they also discuss STI’s.

Represented by Lambda Legal and the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the students argue that the law discriminates against LGBTQ students and violates the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Peter Renn, Lambda Legal counsel, told NPR that “removing the law would enable local school districts to include LGBTQ students in the curriculum, but it wouldn’t create any sort of affirmative obligation.”

South Carolina is one of a few states with “no promotion of homosexuality” laws, which regulate how teachers explain LGBTQ relationships in class. Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Texas have similar laws, many of which were filed as a homophobic response to the HIV/AIDS crisis.

Two other states, Arizona and Utah, repealed similar laws after Lambda Legal and the National Center for Lesbian Rights filed lawsuits in 2019 and 2017, respectively.

In response to the lawsuit, South Carolina superintendent of Education Molly Spearman said, “”As State Superintendent, I am required to uphold the laws passed by the South Carolina General Assembly without discretion.” She also acknowledged “the lawsuit … highlights an issue that the General Assembly has failed to address.”

GLSEN reports that more than 75% of South Carolina’s LGBTQ students have faced verbal harassment because of their sexual orientation, and 88% routinely hear homophobic slurs. Advocates state “no promotion of homosexuality” laws promote harassment and discrimination, further marginalizing LGBTQ students by treating the group as unmentionable.

Sources: NPR, 3/1/2020; South Carolina State Legislature 3/1/2020; GLSEN 2017, 2019; Lambda Legal 4/11/2019; National Center for Lesbian Rights 10/6/2017

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