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Judge: Gay Issues Club Ban Unfair

April 27, 2000

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) _ A student club that focuses on gay and lesbian issues will be allowed to meet while its case against the school district is considered, a federal judge decided Wednesday.

U.S. Judge Tena Campbell granted PRISM _ or People Respecting Important Social Movements _ a preliminary injunction, ruling that the school district unfairly denied the East High School students permission to meet.

In the ruling, she suggested that school officials violated their own policy and the Constitution in snubbing PRISM.

In 1996, the school district eliminated all nonacademic clubs rather than allow a gay club at East High, a move that was upheld in federal court.

In response, Jessica Cohen and Maggie Hinckley applied in February to set up PRISM as an academic club. The club’s goal is to discuss history through gay and lesbian issues, and their application said the club would ``expand and enhance our study and understanding of American history and government.″

But Cynthia Seidel, Assistant Superintendent of the Salt Lake City School District, turned them down.

She said the club’s gay subject matter was too narrow, and thus not curriculum-related.

Judge Campbell disagreed, saying the school board was being unfair because no narrowness provision had been put in writing.

``She has vindicated the important Constitutional requirement that when government regulators, including school officials, set about restricting free speech ... they can’t keep moving the goal posts,″ said Stephen Clark, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union who represented Cohen and Hinckley.

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