Research by Rosky cited in proposed Arizona bill that would eliminate anti-gay curriculum laws

Research by University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law Professor Clifford Rosky is cited in proposed Arizona legislation that would eliminate the state’s current anti-gay curriculum laws.

Arizona Sen. Martin Quezada has proposed a bill to end a 1991 law that states school districts are prohibited from classroom instruction that “promotes a homosexual lifestyle, portrays homosexuality as a positive alternative lifestyle and suggests that some methods of sex are safe methods of homosexual sex.”

Rosky in 2017 published a comprehensive study of anti-gay curriculum laws in Columbia Law Review. His research has been cited in Arizona’s public policy discussions about the issue. (View recent story by National Public Radio affiliate KJZZ in Phoenix here).

Professor Clifford Rosky

Rosky’s research, titled “Anti-Gay Curriculum Laws,” explores which issues the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) movement should prioritize in the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court decision to legalize gay marriage. Rosky’s research provides a framework for a national campaign to invalidate anti-gay curriculum laws—statutes that prohibit or restrict the discussion of homosexuality in public schools.

“These laws are artifacts of a bygone era in which official discrimination against LGBT people was both lawful and rampant. But they are far more prevalent than others have recognized. In the existing literature, scholars and advocates have referred to these provisions as “no promo homo” laws and claimed that they exist in only a handful of states,” Rosky’s research states.

Based on a comprehensive survey of federal and state law, the research shows that anti-gay provisions exist in the curriculum laws of 20 states, and in several provisions of one federal law that governs the distribution of $75 million in annual funding for abstinence education programs.

“In light of the Supreme Court’s rulings in four landmark gay rights cases, these laws plainly violate the Constitution’s equal protection guarantees, because they are not rationally related to any legitimate governmental interests. For the moment, however, federal and state officials still have the legal authority to enforce these laws, because no court has enjoined them from doing so. By challenging one of the country’s last vestiges of state-sponsored homophobia, advocates can help to protect millions of students from stigmatization and bullying, giving them an opportunity to thrive in our nation’s public schools,” the research states.

Rosky’s research provided the foundation for a lawsuit filed in Utah by 2017 by Equality Utah in federal court challenging state laws that ban positive speech about LGBT people in Utah public schools. The lawsuit, which Equality Utah won, claimed that the laws violate the U.S. Constitution and federal education law by discriminating against LGBT people and restricting the First Amendment rights of students and teachers. It was the first of lawsuit in the country to challenge a statewide anti-gay curriculum laws, commonly known as “no promo homo” laws.  The Equality Utah lawsuit also led to the passage of SB196 in the Utah State Legislature, designed to repeal the state’s current “no promo homo” law.

Listen to an additional NPR interview where Rosky is interviewed about Arizona’s discussions to change its law here. 

An additional radio interview is available here.