SC Equality, other advocate organizations and South Carolina Youth File Lawsuit Challenging State’s Anti-LGBTQ Curriculum Law

CHARLESTON, SC – Today the National Center for Lesbian Rights and Lambda Legal, along with private counsel Womble Bond DickinsonBrazil & Burke, and law professor Clifford Rosky, filed a federal lawsuit challenging a South Carolina statute that prohibits public school health education from including any discussion of same-sex relationships except in the context of sexually transmitted diseases. The lawsuit is filed on behalf of the student organization Gender and Sexuality Alliance, as well as South Carolina Equality Coalition, the Campaign for Southern Equality and  including their members who are public school students in the state.

Gender and Sexuality Alliance v. Spearman, alleges that S.C. Code § 59-32-30(A)(5), a provision of South Carolina’s 1988 Comprehensive Health Education Act, violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution by discriminating against students who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ). The statute prohibits districts from including in their health education any “discussion of alternate sexual lifestyles from heterosexual relationships including, but not limited to, homosexual relationships except in the context of instruction concerning sexually transmitted diseases.”

The law singles out LGBTQ students for negative treatment. It prevents LGBTQ students from receiving any health education about their relationships except in the context of sexually transmitted diseases, without imposing any comparable restriction on health education about heterosexual people. Any teacher who violates the provision is subject to dismissal.

Organizations Involved in the Case

Case Documents

Complaint: Filed February 26, 2020

READ THE FULL LEGAL COMPLAINT FILED

Meet the Plaintiffs

The lawsuit is filed on behalf of these organizations and their members who are public school students in South Carolina who are impacted by the anti-LGBTQ law.

SOUTH CAROLINA EQUALITY

South Carolina Equality is a non-profit organization with the mission to secure equal civil and human rights for all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender South Carolinians and their families, and has a vision of a South Carolina where everyone is equal.

GENDER AND SEXUALITY ALLIANCE

The Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA) is an organization of high school students at a public magnet school in the Charleston County School District. The group’s president is Eli Bundy, a tenth grader at the school.

CAMPAIGN FOR SOUTHERN EQUALITY

The Campaign for Southern Equality works for full LGBTQ equality – both legal and lived – across the South. Our work is rooted in commitments to empathy and equity.

Why We’re Challenging the Anti-LGBTQ Curriculum Law

ELI BUNDY, GENDER AND SEXUALITY ALLIANCE

“LGBTQ kids at our school – and every school in South Carolina – just want to feel safe, respected, and equal to other students in the classroom. This discriminatory law treats LGBTQ students like we are outsiders in our own community, and that we aren’t equal to our peers. School should be a safe place for all students to be treated fairly and equally.”

JEFF AYERS, SOUTH CAROLINA EQUALITY

“South Carolina’s Anti-LGBTQ Curriculum Law was enacted in 1988 as a provision of the Comprehensive Health Education Act. It had the express and singular purpose of voicing moral disapproval of non-heterosexual people, and it serves no state purpose at all. This statute attempts to, at best ignore, and at worst to completely stigmatize young people who identify as LGBTQ in South Carolina and it must be struck down.”

KEVIN HALL, WOMBLE BOND DICKINSON

“In South Carolina, people across the political and ideological spectrum understand that no one should be excluded because of their LGBTQ identity. That’s why Republicans and Democrats alike are working in this case to overturn this clearly unconstitutional statute – and we’re honored to represent the effort by supporting these courageous students and the many young people in South Carolina who are being harmed by it each year.”

JULIE WILENSKY, NATIONAL CENTER FOR LESBIAN RIGHTS

“The state law sends a message to students that ‘homosexual relationships’ are so shameful or dangerous that they can only be discussed in a negative context. This contributes to a hostile school climate in a state where nearly 90% of LGBTQ middle and high school students regularly hear homophobic remarks from other students.”

PETER RENN, LAMBDA LEGAL

“This discriminatory law is archaic, outrageous, and profoundly damaging to LGBTQ students, treating them as pariahs. It should come as no surprise that where the government stigmatizes a group of students as ‘unmentionable,’ it risks breeding a school environment hostile to LGBTQ students, with more harassment and abuse in classrooms, hallways, and locker rooms.”

CLIFFORD ROSKY, PROFESSOR OF CONSTITUTIONAL LAW

“We were especially delighted to see that the state’s leading attorney, the South Carolina Attorney General, agrees that the anti-LGBTQ Curriculum Law is unconstitutional. For now, this discriminatory law unfortunately remains in effect, and it inflicts ongoing harm against LGBTQ students in South Carolina’s public schools. To protect these students, we’ll need a judge to prevent the law’s enforcement, or state lawmakers to repeal it – as lawmakers have recently done in Utah and Arizona.”

SC Equality, other advocate organizations and South Carolina Youth File Lawsuit Challenging State’s Anti-LGBTQ Curriculum Law

CHARLESTON, SC – Today the National Center for Lesbian Rights and Lambda Legal, along with private counsel Womble Bond DickinsonBrazil & Burke, and law professor Clifford Rosky, filed a federal lawsuit challenging a South Carolina statute that prohibits public school health education from including any discussion of same-sex relationships except in the context of sexually transmitted diseases. The lawsuit is filed on behalf of the student organization Gender and Sexuality Alliance, as well as South Carolina Equality Coalition, the Campaign for Southern Equality and  including their members who are public school students in the state.

Gender and Sexuality Alliance v. Spearman, alleges that S.C. Code § 59-32-30(A)(5), a provision of South Carolina’s 1988 Comprehensive Health Education Act, violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution by discriminating against students who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ). The statute prohibits districts from including in their health education any “discussion of alternate sexual lifestyles from heterosexual relationships including, but not limited to, homosexual relationships except in the context of instruction concerning sexually transmitted diseases.”

The law singles out LGBTQ students for negative treatment. It prevents LGBTQ students from receiving any health education about their relationships except in the context of sexually transmitted diseases, without imposing any comparable restriction on health education about heterosexual people. Any teacher who violates the provision is subject to dismissal.

Organizations Involved in the Case

Case Documents

Complaint: Filed February 26, 2020

READ THE FULL LEGAL COMPLAINT FILED

Meet the Plaintiffs

The lawsuit is filed on behalf of these organizations and their members who are public school students in South Carolina who are impacted by the anti-LGBTQ law.

SOUTH CAROLINA EQUALITY

South Carolina Equality is a non-profit organization with the mission to secure equal civil and human rights for all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender South Carolinians and their families, and has a vision of a South Carolina where everyone is equal.

GENDER AND SEXUALITY ALLIANCE

The Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA) is an organization of high school students at a public magnet school in the Charleston County School District. The group’s president is Eli Bundy, a tenth grader at the school.

CAMPAIGN FOR SOUTHERN EQUALITY

The Campaign for Southern Equality works for full LGBTQ equality – both legal and lived – across the South. Our work is rooted in commitments to empathy and equity.

Why We’re Challenging the Anti-LGBTQ Curriculum Law

ELI BUNDY, GENDER AND SEXUALITY ALLIANCE

“LGBTQ kids at our school – and every school in South Carolina – just want to feel safe, respected, and equal to other students in the classroom. This discriminatory law treats LGBTQ students like we are outsiders in our own community, and that we aren’t equal to our peers. School should be a safe place for all students to be treated fairly and equally.”

JEFF AYERS, SOUTH CAROLINA EQUALITY

“South Carolina’s Anti-LGBTQ Curriculum Law was enacted in 1988 as a provision of the Comprehensive Health Education Act. It had the express and singular purpose of voicing moral disapproval of non-heterosexual people, and it serves no state purpose at all. This statute attempts to, at best ignore, and at worst to completely stigmatize young people who identify as LGBTQ in South Carolina and it must be struck down.”

KEVIN HALL, WOMBLE BOND DICKINSON

“In South Carolina, people across the political and ideological spectrum understand that no one should be excluded because of their LGBTQ identity. That’s why Republicans and Democrats alike are working in this case to overturn this clearly unconstitutional statute – and we’re honored to represent the effort by supporting these courageous students and the many young people in South Carolina who are being harmed by it each year.”

JULIE WILENSKY, NATIONAL CENTER FOR LESBIAN RIGHTS

“The state law sends a message to students that ‘homosexual relationships’ are so shameful or dangerous that they can only be discussed in a negative context. This contributes to a hostile school climate in a state where nearly 90% of LGBTQ middle and high school students regularly hear homophobic remarks from other students.”

PETER RENN, LAMBDA LEGAL

“This discriminatory law is archaic, outrageous, and profoundly damaging to LGBTQ students, treating them as pariahs. It should come as no surprise that where the government stigmatizes a group of students as ‘unmentionable,’ it risks breeding a school environment hostile to LGBTQ students, with more harassment and abuse in classrooms, hallways, and locker rooms.”

CLIFFORD ROSKY, PROFESSOR OF CONSTITUTIONAL LAW

“We were especially delighted to see that the state’s leading attorney, the South Carolina Attorney General, agrees that the anti-LGBTQ Curriculum Law is unconstitutional. For now, this discriminatory law unfortunately remains in effect, and it inflicts ongoing harm against LGBTQ students in South Carolina’s public schools. To protect these students, we’ll need a judge to prevent the law’s enforcement, or state lawmakers to repeal it – as lawmakers have recently done in Utah and Arizona.”

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