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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, December 5, 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 49
Lambda Legal takes on U.S. 'Don't Say Gay' laws
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Lambda Legal takes on U.S. 'Don't Say Gay' laws

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Lambda Legal has launched a new campaign against 'Don't Say Gay' laws here in the United States.

According to the group, at least eight U.S. states have laws on the books that are similar to Russia's notorious laws banning public discussion of LGBT issues. Sometimes also called 'no promo homo' laws, they restrict discussion of Gay sex and HIV prevention in public school classrooms.

Lambda Legal's new #DontEraseMe campaign is aimed especially at students, and asks them to speak out against the laws in their states. The #DontEraseMe campaign does not explicitly threaten litigation by Lambda attorneys, but the group clearly states that it believes the laws constitute unlawful discrimination by the government.

Most of the 'no promo homo' laws were passed in the late 1980s and early 1990s and reflected fear of the growing HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Under those circumstances, the laws unfairly stigmatized same-sex sexual relations, and acted to increase the spread of STDs by shutting down discussions of safer sexual practices. The law in Arizona, for example, forbids teachers to teach that 'some methods of sex are safe methods of homosexual sex.'

Lambda Legal says the laws are also harmful and stigmatizing to LGBT students.

Alabama and Texas, for example, require that in sex education classes students must be taught that being Gay 'is not a lifestyle acceptable to the general public.' Arizona prohibits instruction that 'portrays homosexuality as a positive alternative life-style' in certain curricula. Other states with anti-LGBT curriculum laws include Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Utah.

And, while the laws might originally have been intended to cover only sex education, they are often misinterpreted by teachers and administrators, and could even be used to prohibit instruction about Harvey Milk in a history class or Walt Whitman in a poetry class.

By creating a climate of discrimination, the laws contribute to the bullying of LGBT youth, Lambda Legal adds.

LGBT students in states with these laws report hearing more homophobic remarks from school staff and are less likely to report incidents of harassment to school staff, according to GLSEN's National School Climate Survey.

The campaign can be accessed at https://twitter.com/hashtag/donteraseme.

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