Arizona Repeals Anti-LGBTQ Curriculum Law After Filing of Lawsuit

Arizona Repeals Anti-LGBTQ Curriculum Law After Filing of Lawsuit

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Photo: The Gender Spectrum Collection
Photo: The Gender Spectrum Collection

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey today signed into law an amendment that repeals the state’s anti-LGBTQ curriculum law that barred LGBTQ students from receiving medically accurate, age-appropriate information about non-heterosexual people in their health education classes. The amendment removes language that had prohibited instruction in HIV/AIDS curriculum that “[p]romotes a homosexual life-style,” “[p]ortrays homosexuality as a positive alternative life-style,” or “[s]uggests that some methods of sex are safe methods of homosexual sex.”

Today’s action comes exactly two weeks after the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and Lambda Legal, along with law professor Clifford Rosky and pro bono counsel Perkins Coie LLP, filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of Equality Arizona, including its members who are public school students, challenging the anti-LGBTQ curriculum law.

“A full repeal is an amazing development, as it removes the harmful and discriminatory language that we specifically challenged in the lawsuit,” NCLR Senior Staff Attorney Julie Wilensky said. “We are grateful to the leadership of Arizonans who have been advocating for many years on this issue.”

“The writing was already on the wall, considering that the Arizona attorney general had already signaled they were not going to defend the law in court,” said Lambda Legal Staff Attorney Puneet Cheema. “We are thrilled that state officials have moved so quickly to get this harmful law off the books and allow LGBTQ students – in fact all students – to get access to the medically-accurate information that literally could save their lives.”

The lawsuit, Arizona Equality v. Hoffman, was filed March 28, 2019 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona. The plaintiff, Equality Arizona, is a non-profit organization that advocates for the equality of LGBTQ people. The organization includes student members, two of whom were described in the complaint. One student, referred to by the anonymous initials, “A.A.,” is a gay freshman in a greater Phoenix high school. Another student, who is identified by the initials S.C. and is also named as a plaintiff, is a seventh-grade student at a middle school in Tucson. The lawsuit argued the anti-LGBTQ curriculum law violated the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.

“We are tremendously gratified that Arizona lawmakers and elected officials came so quickly to realize how harmful the anti-LGBTQ curriculum law is, and moved so rapidly to repeal it,” said Michael Soto, Executive Director, Equality Arizona. “A state law that explicitly demeaned and dismissed LGBTQ students and their relationships could not help but encourage abuse and discrimination at school. We are glad to see it erased from the books and are grateful to the LGBTQ leaders and allies who made the repeal possible.”

“While I recognize the bullying experienced by LGBTQ students will not simply disappear, at least now there isn’t a law on the books that singles me out as someone who should be ashamed of who they are,” said S.C. “This is a really important first step.”

“I am delighted that state officials and lawmakers moved so quickly to get this law off the books,” said Carol Brochin, S.C.’s mother. “School is supposed to be a safe place where my child, like any other student, can receive education and support that will help as they move through life. The anti-LGBTQ curriculum law did just the opposite, and I couldn’t be happier to see it repealed.”

Arizona’s anti-LGBTQ curriculum law was enacted nearly thirty years ago in 1991. Kathy Hoffman – the Arizona Superintendent of Public Education and a defendant in the lawsuit – herself acknowledged that the law needed to be repealed, and she in fact welcomed the filing of the lawsuit. There were repeated failed legislative efforts to repeal the law before today’s historic vote.

The case is Equality Arizona v. Hoffman. Read about the case here: lambdalegal.org/in-court/legal-docs/equality-arizona_az_20190329_complaint.

Attorneys working on the case are: Puneet Cheema and Peter Renn, Lambda Legal; Julie Wilensky and Asaf Orr, National Center for Lesbian Rights; law professor Clifford Rosky; and pro bono co-counsel Dan Barr, Barry Stratford, Randal McDonald, and Katherine May at Perkins Coie LLP.

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