Rosky publishes new research on anti-gay curriculum laws

Clifford Rosky, a professor at the University’s S.J. Quinney College of Law, will publish a new comprehensive study of anti-gay curriculum laws in a forthcoming issue of the Columbia Law Review.

The 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 earlier this year filed by Equality Utah in federal court challenging state laws that ban positive speech about LGBT people in Utah public schools. The pending lawsuit claims 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 is the first of lawsuit in the country to challenge a statewide anti-gay curriculum laws, commonly known as “no promo homo” laws.  The lawsuit led to the passage of SB196 in the Utah State Legislature, designed to repeal the state’s current “no promo homo” law.

Rosky serves on the Equality Utah Advisory Board and previously served as Equality Utah Board Chair. Rosky teaches courses on constitutional law, criminal law, and sexuality, gender and law at the S.J. Quinney College of Law at the University of Utah.

Before joining the faculty at the University of Utah, Rosky served as a research fellow for the Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation Law & Public Policy at the UCLA School of Law.

After moving to Utah, Rosky has authored numerous articles on LGBT rights, including an award-winning article on the Prop 8 case, “Perry v. Schwarzenegger and the Future of Same-Sex Marriage Law.” Rosky was one of the primary authors of SB 296, Utah’s new antidiscrimination law that extends employment and housing protections to LGBTQ people.