How East is More Fair Than the President

Kayla Lien, Opinion Editor

We usually think of East High School as diverse compared to the whole of the state of Utah. We have a wide range of races and ethnicities, an overall tolerance for different religions, and we’re a leading school in the state when it comes to sexuality acceptance.

Let’s take a closer look at the students’ thoughts of sexuality. 46 students took a survey, questioning about their opinions and knowledge of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning, Intersex, Asexual/Aromantic, Plus Community (LGBTQIA+). Of that, there were six senior males, three junior males, two sophomore males and 17 freshmen males. There was one senior female, five sophomore females, 12 freshmen females and one anonymous person. Out of the 46 students, 26 responded in favor of the Community, while 4 answered negatively. 13 students had no clue what to think. Five students were supportive, although their responses were of the “it’s a choice!” nature. Gender and age seemed to have little sway on the results.

East High has had a history with the LGBTQIA+ community resulting in groundbreaking outcomes. In 1995, a group of students tried forming a Gay/Straight Alliance (GSA), but Salt Lake City School District (SLCSD) refused to allow it, noting that they did not want that sort of free speech. In order to not violate the 1984 Equal Access Act (EAA) which states that any school receiving federal funding and has non-curricular clubs must give all such clubs equal access to the school’s resources, the SLCSD banned all non-curricular clubs throughout the whole of the District. Lambda Legal and Education Fund, ACLU of Utah, attorneys Laura Milliken Gray and Marlin Criddle, ACLU of Northern California, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights, filed a lawsuit for hopeful GSA members Keysha Barnes and Ivy Fox. The complaint referenced the district’s violation of the EAA, as well as the unwritten but enforced policy prohibiting gay-positive viewpoints in a school setting, which thus violated the students’ First Amendment rights. The ensuing battle waged for half a decade.

In October 1999, U.S. District Judge Bruce Jenkins concluded that the SLCSD infringed the EAA during the 1997-98 school year when it refused the GSA to meet. But, in a November 1999 pre-trial hearing, the district said that in no uncertain terms that students have a First Amendment right to express gay-positive views in approved school groups. However, according to the Supreme Court ruling in Keyishian v. Board of Education, 1967, “The classroom is peculiarly the “marketplace of ideas.” The Nation’s future depends upon leaders trained through wide exposure to that robust exchange of ideas which discovers “truth out of a multitude of tongues, [rather] than through any kind of authoritative selection.” This ruling was decided 28 years before the first offense happened, and 32 years before the SLCSD publicly uttered that there were no rights for students.

In December of 1999, Lambda Legal filed a notice of appeal in the 10th Circuit of Appeals, contesting the trial judge’s finding of how no non-curricular student groups were meeting after the 1997-98 school year. Finally, in November 2000, the matter got fully briefed and the school district allowed the GSA and other non-curricular student groups to meet.

This gave rise to other GSAs in Utah. Provo High School created one in 2005, in spite of being considered one of the most conservative cities in the country. They were asked to shut down the group, but the board members concluded that it would violate federal law to do so.

Despite Utah’s generally on-point stereotype of being socially conservative and highly religious, rights for LGBTQIA+ people have rapidly increased since then. In October 2014, banning of same-sex marriage was ruled unconstitutional by a federal court, two years before President Obama ruled for equality across the nation. If they have a court order, transgendered people can legally change their gender without surgery, and there are protections against discrimination for employment and housing only, although public accommodation isn’t included. Queer couples have the ability to adopt children. Equality Utah filed a lawsuit against the Utah State Board of Education to get rid of a law forbidding the “promotion of homosexuality” in schools. The bill was passed on March 20th of 2017, and it went into effect as of July 1st.

East High is perceived as a center for diversity and a leader for equal rights among Utah’s schools. This is shown in the “Love is Love” stickers hanging on teacher’s’ doors. This is prevalent in posters on the hallway walls that tell how, “Racism is not welcome here.” Signs are in every classroom highlighting the “Equity Edge,” about how degrading and vulgar behaviors aren’t acceptable. If only the rest of the world had such welcoming views.

Due to Donald Trump’s recent decision to rescind Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), many Dreamers that are affected by this ruling might be going back to a death sentence as a result of their sexuality. As of July 27, 2017, 72 countries and territories still criminalize same-sex relationships, including 45 where sexual relationships between women are outlawed. Southern and east Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia have the most severe approaches. Under Sharia Law, homosexuality is still punishable by death in Iran, Sudan, Saudi Arabia and Yemen. In Syria and Iraq, the death penalty is carried out by non-state actors such as Islamic State. Making it worse, Trump’s travel ban, signed on January 25th, halting immigration for all refugees, including all immigration from nationals of seven Muslim-majority countries, which are Syria, Yemen, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Somalia – the same countries that murder and imprison queer people. To condense it down, the President of our country is turning his back and sending people to their deaths, less than a year after he took an oath to protect them.  

Trump has removed multiple protections for the LGBTQIA+ community, raising many alarms. Just 11 days after he was sworn into office, a draft of a bill that would legalize anti-LGBTQIA+ discrimination was leaked. Only a week after this scare happened, Betsy DeVos was confirmed as Donald’s Education Secretary. LGBTQIA+ advocates spoke out against her, noting her family’s history of donations to confirmed hate groups such as Focus on the Family, which pushes the idea that children have no say in who they are, looking to parents to “give guidance for dealing with children at various “ages and stages”,” as if a child is engaging in reckless behaviours and must be reprimanded.

February 8, the very next day, the Senate approved Jeff Sessions for Attorney General, “a lifelong opponent of the civil rights of LGBTQIA+ people, people of color, women and immigrants,” according to Lambda Legal Executive Director Rachel Tiven. Sessions served as the junior Senator in Alabama for the last 20 years. This man is in charge of legally protecting our civil rights, famously noting that he found the Ku Klux Klan “O.K. until [he] found out they smoked pot.” On July 26, he filed a brief that argued against LGBTQIA+ protections in the workplace, protected under Title VII, a part of the Civil Rights Act. This means that someone can be fired for something as out-of-control as the color of one’s skin.

The Departments of Education and Justice revoked the Obama’s administration’s guidance on equal access to facilities for transgender students on February 22nd. Their fate is left up to states and local school districts. Luckily for students in the SLCSD, the District has protections for students on the basis of their “color, disability, gender, gender identity, genetic information, national origin, pregnancy, race, religion, sexual orientation, or veteran status” and it’s directly mentioned on their website.

On March 16, the Department of State appointed C-FAM and the Heritage Foundation as the only two “civil” society organization in its delegation to the United Nations’ annual Commision on the Status of Women (CSW). These two groups are designated hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center. C-FAM is listed as a anti-LGBTQIA+ hate group for at least five years, and the majority of the “Worst Moments of the Year for Life and Family at the United Nations” involve global progress of LGBTQIA+ rights, such as the approval of a global anti-bullying campaign. The Heritage Foundation has published multiple reports and commentary pieces that are critical of same-sex marriage and the right for transgender people to use bathrooms that align with their gender identity. The CSW meeting is not only an important place for women’s rights, but is also pivotal for LGBTQIA+ rights. These are hate groups, sitting at a table for specialization in women’s and gay rights. Where are the women? Where are the civil rights’ groups? What ever happened to expertise?

Then, on April 10, a ProPublica investigation released information that recently hired Department of Agriculture employee James Renne helped orchestrate an anti-gay purge of LGBTQIA+ government employees during the George W. Bush presidency.

In Trump’s first 100 days, NBC has recorded 18 acts of hatred and discrimination against the queer community. It was only three and a half months.

Now, it has been 286 days since Trump was put into office. 286 days of erasure of civil rights. 286 days of nothing but fear and disaster. 286 days of a toddler running and ruining our nation.

The President is to be the Chief Citizen, the representative of the country’s people. What he’s representing is only hatred, homophobia, and xenophobia. His animosity towards America’s own people is sending a clear message throughout the nation. What right is he going to take away next?