The Salt Lake City, Utah Board of Education voted Tuesday to ban all non-academic extracurricular clubs from the city’s three public high schools rather than allow a gay student organization.
Board members said federal law and a Supreme Court ruling forced them to choose between allowing all, or eliminating all, extracurricular clubs. The ban begins with the 1996-97 school year and will affect some 30 service, ethnic or sports clubs. An opponent of the ban, Board president Mary Jo Rasmussen said it was unclear whether the high schools’ varsity teams would be eliminated as well.
Club backers maintain that gay students need one another’s support in a homophobic environment, while opponents of the club are wary of giving “approval” to what they consider “immoral conduct.”
The Utah Legislature is considering two bills addressing gay clubs, one requiring parental consent for clubs meeting on school grounds and another preventing school employees and volunteers from supporting illegal conduct, such as sodomy. Roughly 85 percent of the 104 member of the Utah State Legislature are Mormon. The Mormon church condemns homosexual acts and sexual relationships outside of marriage.
Carol Gnade, executive director of the ACLU in Salt Lake city described the Board’s decision as an outrage and compared it to segregation.