Rosky’s research provides foundation for repealing Utah’s “No Promo Homo” law

A University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law professor has played a significant role in repealing Utah’s “No Promo Homo” law.

Clifford Rosky completed a comprehensive study of anti-gay curriculum laws that will be published in a forthcoming issue of the Columbia Law Review. His research was the foundation for a lawsuit filed by the non-profit LGBT organization Equality Utah and three LGBT students against the State Board of Education to challenge the constitutionality of Utah’s “No Promo Homo” law. 

The law prohibited Utah students and teachers from discussing “homosexuality” in the state’s public schools.  On Friday, Equality Utah and the plaintiffs announced a final settlement with the State Board of Education, bringing an end to the lawsuit.

“In response to our lawsuit, the Utah Legislature repealed the state’s No Promo Homo law with SB 196. The Utah State Board of Education has issued a letter to all Utah public and charter schools to clarify the intent of SB 196,” Equality Utah wrote in a statement issued in announcing the final settlement.

The letter expresses the board’s desire to ensure that ‘each student in Utah public schools receives a high-quality education free from all manner of discrimination, which can take the form of bullying based on religion, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and gender identity.’”

Equality Utah’s statement notes that the letter directs all public and charter schools to revise their policies to align with the board’s new directive, including the board’s “intent to prohibit discrimination against all Utah students.

Utah is only the second state in history —after California —to repeal a “No Promo Homo” law.

“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 states. Rosky’s research, titled “Anti-Gay Curriculum Laws,” 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.

Based on a comprehensive survey of federal and state law, Rosky 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.

In Equality Utah’s lawsuit, Rosky served as an expert who assisted the plaintiffs’ attorneys.  The lawsuit claimed that “No Promo Homo” 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. The settlement announced Friday will lead to the official conclusion of the case. (The settlement was covered by multiple news outlets, including The Associated Press).

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

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.