Gay-Straight Alliances are on the rise in Utah, reports The New York Times. 30 new clubs sprung up in the conservative state in 2010.
In 2009, there were 9 Gay-Straight Alliances in all of Utah. In addition, 10 districts have enacted anti-discrimination policies, reports The Huffington Post.
The quest for Gay-Straight Alliances has been an uphill battle for Utah students. A law passed in 2007 requires parental permission to join and dictates the topics deemed “appropriate.” Students may not discuss sexuality or contraception, even if the discussion is centered around preventing STI’s. Still, students have been attending the clubs, focusing more on “making friends and planning events,” according to an educator who spoke to The New York Times.
It is impressive that LGBT youth and their straight allies have fought so hard against a state that, in 1997, banned all extracurricular clubs in an attempt to squash a Gay-Straight Alliance.
Utah has worked extremely hard to silence the voices of LGBT youth, but it doesn’t seem to be working. Despite statements like “I just don’t think these clubs are appropriate in schools. You can talk about providing support, but you’re also creating a gay recruiting tool” by the president of the Utah Eagle Forum, the teens are not backing down.
They were, however, disheartened when a number of parents running for the St. George school board spoke out against the GSA and urged parents not to allow their children to participate.
Luckily the GSAs of Utah have the Utah Pride Center behind them. The Utah Pride Center helps find and train student organizers as well as hosting events like Gay Prom.
Executive Director Valerie Larabee told The Huffington Post, “These GSAs are wonderful, safe, open and affirming environments where young people can just be who they are. That’s a rare space for some youth, particularly in a conservative, religious state.”
Hopefully the number of GSAs in Utah will only increase in 2011.
Photo thanks to Cary Bass via Flickr